Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dr. Who!

Another busy few days for your humble narrator - ah well, it's better than sitting around doing nothing isn't it?

Two Upper Cut gigs in two days is always a good thing to be able to report on - Saturday saw the band return to The Kings Arms in Harefield for the first time in quite a while, and we made our first ever appearance at The Horns in Watford on Sunday afternoon. We got together on Thursday evening to run through a few new songs (well they're new to our act, we didn't write any of 'em!) and to brush up on a few oldies - in the event we concentrated more on the new than the old which I for one think is no bad thing. I tend to think that if you're in a cover band then there's no point in not learning new songs - after all we've all seen bands that have had basically the same act for years haven't we? Anyway the Saturday show was a raucous affair, with the very drunk man who wanted to play harmonica with us (we eventually let him join in on 'Rock Me Baby' which I must admit he played very well, especially considering his advanced state of alcoholic disrepair - mind we couldn't get him to stop after that!) and the larger lady (she really shouldn't have worn that outfit!) who sat on the P.A. amplifier being among the many 'characters' present; indeed after a while I realised that quite a few people were watching the other audience members antics almost as much as they were watching the band... the Sunday gig was one that I'd been looking forward to for quite some time, and I'm pleased to say that it more than lived up to expectations. The Horns is an absolutely splendid venue, and with Paul the soundman getting everything balanced we played two highly well-received sets to the assembled multitude. Here's one of the new-to-us songs 'I Wish It Would Rainfrom the show - see what you think. Hopefully we'll be back there soon.

Having missed the previous Reggae Punk Monday night at The 12 Bar Club due to, er, not feeling too well (it had been a l-o-n-g few days!) I was keen to get along this week, not least because the evening was simply too good to miss. I arrived just in time to catch The Featherz, whose shouty power pop impressed many a Bowie fan (visually at least!) present. Next up were The Duel who rarely fail to impress and certainly didn't here - Chris looks to be settling in well in his new role as guitarist (he was previously on bass) and Tara somehow kept her Clash hat on for the whole set despite the temperature in the room rising all the time. And Alabama 3 frontman Larry Love managed to cram an impressive number of people onto the tiny stage to deliver a brilliant set of 'music littered with last chances, seaside lovers and dreams which have melted like ice cream on the promenade'. Well that's how they describe it on their website, and oddly enough that's pretty much how it sounded! A fine evening - and next Monday features the excellent Bug who supported Ruts D.C. in Preston last year. See you at the bar... and talking of Ruts D.C. we're playing at the 'Fat Tuesday' charity event in Hastings next (you've guessed it!) Tuesday 4th March. Three shows in three different venues in one evening - should be fun! And The Flying Squad play a Gypie Mayo tribute evening alongside The Band Of Sceptics (featuring Pete Sargeant) at Tropic At Ruislip this Sunday - the same line-up will also be playing at The Surrey Blues Club next Friday 7th March. Time I dusted off my Dr. Feelgood riffs then!

There were more than a few Dr. Feelgood riffs on display at The Shepherds Bush Empire last night, when Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey (why on Earth didn't they call the band Dr. Who?!?) played a one-off show together in anticipation of their 'Going Back Home' album due out next month. After playing for around 40 minutes (and it must be said, playing very well!) Wilko sounded almost incredulous as he said the words 'ladies and gentlemen, Roger Daltery' before leading the band into album's title track. What followed was an at times loose but thoroughly enjoyable performance, with Wilko spending much of the gig smiling broadly (that doesn't look right somehow!) and Daltrey joking about having to read the lyrics from crib sheets - he even waved them in the air at one point to prove it! A brilliant evening, not least because I managed to meet the man himself afterwards. Oh yes!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

'Stoke adds life where there isn't any, so freeze man freeze!'

It's been a slightly quieter few days... sort of...

I saw Johnny Warman play several times with The Mods, and was always impressed. both with his not-inconsiderable vocal ability and his choice of songs - if you're going to have a covers band then you might as well play songs by The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces... well, that's pretty much how we run The Upper Cut! His new band Magic Bus (great name!) were playing at Tropic At Ruislip on Friday, and expectations were high. Well they were from my point of view anyway... in the main the band lived up to them, being excellent musicians although perhaps a little 'heavy' sounding for some of the material (for example 'You Really Got Me' was more Van Halen than The Kinks - I'd have much preferred it to have been the other way round!) I also felt that they played the set in a slightly odd order - finishing the evening with 'Won't Get Fooled Again', 'Love Reign O'er Me' and 'See Me Feel Me' / 'Listening To You' is unlikely to disappoint a Who obsessive such as myself, but none of them can exactly be described as great dance songs, and since up until that point in proceedings the area in front of the stage had been heavily populated with people shaking a leg or two they somewhat dissipated the atmosphere. A good rather than great evening then, although I'll try to catch the band again as it'll be interesting to see where they go from here.

And talking of Tropic At Ruislip Sunday 2nd March sees a very special night there, when The Flying Squad and The Band Of Sceptics play a tribute show to the late and undeniably great Gypie Mayo - more news nearer to the day, but it should be a great night!

Saturday saw the first Back To Zero gig of 2014, at The Gardeners Retreat in Boothen near Stoke-on-Trent. Also on the bill were Robby Allen and The Kite Collectors and The Found, and proceeds from the evening went towards buying an FM licence for Alan May's 'Glory Boy Mod Radio Show' on 6 Towns Radio. With Squirrel away elsewhere Pete is depping on bass, and Stuart returns on keyboards - when we arrive all the bands are there but there's no sign of a sound man or indeed a P.A. system. They both eventually turn up around half past five, and with door due to open at 7.30pm sound check is therefore a rather rushed affair. Still with over 150 tickets sold for a 200 capacity venue a good evening is in prospect - we take the short walk back to The Plough Hotel where we're staying to get changed before coming back to the venue in time to catch the first band The Found. Introduced by Alan as 'a band from a small town in Sunderland called Newcastle-upon-Tyne' (cue a predictably raucous reaction from the band members!) they play a good set that perhaps owes a little too much to Paul Weller but that is very enjoyable all the same. Next up are Robby Allen and The Kite Collectors - I remember seeing Mr. Allen in The Mild Mannered Janitors back in the day, he was good then and he's good now, with his young band matching him move-for-move and the audience getting behind him from the word go. By the time we go on the place is packed - starting and finishing with our new single 'Love Like Suicide' (7'' vinyl available soon - oh yes!) we play a good set to a very appreciative audience, and we all agree that it's a great start to the BTZ year. Afterwards there's time for a few drinks with some of the audience before stumbling back to our hotel for some well-earned sleep. A fine evening - and here's 'Your Side Of Heaven' from the show. My guitar is loud isn't it? Good!

And yesterday it was back to Jamm in Brixton to continue working on the various Ruts D.C. projects currently being prepared for release - it's all sounding good but there's still work to be done... and The Upper Cut play The Kings Arms in Harefield this Saturday followed by a 4pm show at The Horns in Watford on Sunday afternoon so we're rehearsing tomorrow night - still busy... 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Acoustic alchemy

So how did last week's tube strike effect you? Speaking personally it made me feel quite nauseous - well that's not strictly true, as what actually made me feel nauseous was the amount of television time devoted to the ever-odious Boris Johnson as he attempted to get his photo taken with anybody unfortunate enough to be next to him in a train carriage, all the while banging on about how naughty and horrid those nasty unions are. What a twerp. And then there was all that stuff about Bob Crow being on holiday the week before the strike. The Royal Family are permanently on holiday aren't they - at least they are when they're not out huntin' shootin' and fishin'. Why was nobody having a go at them? Oooo don't get me started...

The downside of the tube strike from my point of view is that I didn't get to a Ruts D.C. rehearsal in Deptford on Thursday, a shame not least because we were due to look at material for both the German gigs at the weekend and the acoustic show on Monday. I also was obliged to leave early from Jamm in Brixton on Tuesday evening where work was continuing on various Ruts and Ruts D.C. recordings, although at least Segs, Dave and myself did get chance to have a short acoustic rehearsal while we were there, which was just as well as this turned out to be our last chance before the shows. I therefore spent much of Thursday running through the songs at home - as I sat playing along with 'The Crack' it struck me that I had learned to play by doing just that (and indeed by playing along with many other records) all those years ago. A very strange thought, although not as strange as some of the thoughts running through my head at 4.30am the next day as I struggled to get myself up in time to catch my cab to Heathrow Airport...
After checking in at Terminal 1 Dave (drums) Segs (bass) Molara (vocals) Nick (sound man) and myself adjourned to The Giraffe Cafe (with Dave triumphantly announcing 'I'll stick my neck out' as we decided to eat there. Ouch!) for breakfast before we headed to Gate 5 for our flight to Dusseldorf, which was reasonably uneventful (good!) until the rather bumpy landing (bad!) We then met up with tour manager Mutti and Freider our driver (that's how I'm going to spell his name - that's certainly how it's pronounced and I can't find anything on the Internet to help me. I knew I should have asked him!) to make our way to The Getaway Club in Solingen where we're headlining The OxFest celebrating 25 years of Ox fanzine. However first we have a planned detour to see Die Toten Hosen drummer Vom at his house where we've been invited for 'tea and biscuits'. Rock 'n' Roll eh? Vom features heavily on many T.V. Smith recordings and I saw him playing many years ago in Doctor And The Medics; he turned out to be a very nice chap who in addition to providing the afore-mentioned refreshments also showed us around his house including the very impressive downstairs bar which we were told was the scene of many misadventures. Somehow we managed to leave before anything too untoward happened.
We arrived at The Getaway mid-afternoon (where there was probably the biggest dog that I have ever seen. Molara's comment that she could 'ride it onto the stage' tells you all that you need to know!) to find everything set up and ready for soundchecking, which was straightforward enough although somewhat enlivened by the presence of a local television crew and a presenter decked out in what I was told (by him) was a traditional hunting outfit. Strange but true. He attempted to interview Dave while he was soundchecking the drums, although Dave was more interested in trying the interviewer's hat on... from there it was off to check in at the nearby Kempe Hotel where I'm sharing room 216 with Nick - we turn the television on to find the footage from the venue already being aired! 

(And here is that footage - that's Nick behind the sound desk, and you can hear Dave and myself soundchecking in the background. Sadly they didn't use the interview with Dave!) 

We returned to the venue around 6.30 for some food (all vegetarian and / or vegan, all excellent) and to check stage times - we're due on at 11.20 so with plenty of time to spare we return to the hotel before Dave, Segs, Nick and myself find ourselves in The Agora Lounge a few doors down form the hotel. After a couple of drinks it's back to the venue where there's a good-sized crowd in attendance and The Generators about to take to the stage. They're all big Ruts fans (good boys!) and have their pictures taken with Dave and Segs before going on to play an excellently energetic show. Our show is a rowdy affair, there are people calling out for songs from the word go (most if not all of which we play) and by the end of our set the place is going crazy. We encore with 'Society' and 'In A Rut' - Segs invites The Generators to join us on stage and Manny the bass player takes up the challenge and indeed Segs's' bass guitar, riffing with relish during my solo. After the show we find ourselves in the upstairs bar where we see Frank and co. who we first met at our Berlin show back in September and who were also at the Bremen show that's currently being prepared for live album release; I also see Faf from The Tips who supported us on last year's German shows and who gave me a (very good) promotional CD of three tracks from their latest album 'Trippin''. Drinks are drunk, stories are told and we make it back to our hotel for around 3am. A splendid evening.

The next morning I make it down for breakfast by 10am, although I'm not sure how. By midday we've left for the evening's show in Stuttgart (pausing only to say goodbye to The Generators who were also staying at our hotel) and I'm asleep again within 15 minutes of us setting off. No surprise there then... we wind our way to Stuttgart (pausing only for an impressive amount of food at a motorway service station) eventually arriving there just as it's getting dark. We check in at The Astoria Hotel (there are some very mixed reviews on the lik - see what you think!) before going to Goldmark's to set up and soundcheck. The club was named after Peter Carl Goldmark, who among his many achievements invented the long-playing record. Top man! Also on the bill are Sumpfpaepste (don't ask me how to say it!) who are soundchecking as we leave to go back to our hotel to pick up some bits and pieces - as we walk towards the van a rat runs out across our path. Oo-er!
When we arrive back at Goldmark's Sumpfpaepste are on stage and the place is packed with people still arriving. The scene is set for a great gig and I'm pleased to say that is exactly what transpires, although speaking personally I wasn't happy with my performance. You get nights where everything goes right and you get nights where everything goes wrong, and for me this was definitely one of the latter. I just couldn't for want of a better term 'get hold' of the gig. Still no one told me that I played badly so I'm going to do my best not to dwell on it... actually thinking about it, I probably shouldn't have mentioned it here! Afterwards there's time for a few drinks (well, quite a few drinks actually) before we return to our hotel for some well-earned sleep.

Sunday starts just a bit too early for some (well, it certainly does for me!) as we've got to be at Stuttgart Airport before 10 o'clock to check in for our flight home. Once again our flight was reasonably uneventful (good!) until the rather bumpy landing (bad!) and after collecting my guitar from outsize baggage I got on the phone to Big Al Reed - he and The Blistering Buicks were playing at Colnbrook at Ye Olde George Inn at 5pm, and before I left for Germany I'd arranged with him that provided my flight wasn't delayed (it wasn't!) I'd meet him at the airport and join the band for the gig. I met him outside Terminal 5 and we made our way to the venue - we were a bit early so decided to have something to eat, but sadly they'd run out of food (!) so we spent the next hour or so attempting to find somewhere locally that wasn't either packed out or not serving meals. By now it was all catching up with me a bit, to the extent that it all felt a bit surreal - by the time the show came around I was feeling rather disorientated (and not from alcohol, I hadn't had any, honest!) although the show went well with everybody on good form throughout. 

I got home around 9 o'clock, and felt grateful for it being an early show as it gave me a chance to catch up on some sleep before spending Monday in Balcony Shirts. At closing time it was straight onto The Metropolitan Line into London (meeting Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes on the way) for Ruts D.C.'s first ever acoustic show, at The 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street. It's the first of 13 Reggae Punk Monday nights, all of which will feature The Duel (their singer Tara organises the shows) along with different guest bands and artists each week. Segs is resident DJ, and when we arrived he was setting up his gear in anticipation of a busy night. Having had minimal rehearsal time our soundcheck was more along the lines of a 'what songs do you think we need to try?' session than perhaps it should have been, but as always Nick got everything sounding excellent. With Segs staying behind to start the evening's music (and Esso staying behind in the bar!) Dave and myself went off in search of some food, finding the Aziz Mangal Turkish restaurant on Shaftesbury Avenue where we order too much food (well, too much for me anyway - it was really nice though!) and discuss tactics for the months ahead. When we returned to The 12 Bar Club The Duel were playing to a packed room and people were still arriving - we though it would be a busy night but nothing had prepared us for the amount of people that were in attendance. After setting Segs and my guitars up I go to the bar to get myself and Dave a drink - by the time I'm served I can see Dave and Segs ready to play with Dave saying 'LEIGH HEGGARTY TO THE STAGE PLEASE!' in a somewhat exasperated manner down his microphone but the place is so crowded that I physically can't get near to the stage. I eventually manage to fight my way through - I hand Dave his drink and he smiles a big smile. That's a relief, I thought that I'd annoyed him. We start the show with 'Something That I Said' and it feels great - our set goes by in no time and the audience love it. Larry Love from The Alabama 3 and Aynzli Jones join us for 'Smiling Culture' (no rehearsal at all for that one! You can see it here if you like...) and a couple of songs from the end Segs announces that there's no point in us finishing and then doing an encore as we can't get off the stage, so we play 'Society' and 'In A Rut' to finish a terrific gig. Afterwards there are comments a-plenty from audience members, all of whom hope that it's not the only acoustic show that we play. I agree with them - it really was a great thing to be part of, and hopefully we'll be doing more shows like it in the future.

And here is footage of the first few minutes of the show - I told you that I couldn't get to the stage! There are also two reviews of the gig courtesy of the excellent Elvis In the Clouds and Stupefaction blogs -that's my handwriting on the setlist in the second review...

Well what a few days that was - in contrast there is just one gig for your humble narrator this weekend, with Back To Zero at The Gardeners Retreat in Stoke-on-Trent. It should be a relatively quiet weekend compared to the last one - although having just read back through what I've written here this may not be a bad thing...

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Reggae Punk Mondays at The 12 Bar Club

Just a quick reminder that Ruts D.C. are playing the band's first ever acoustic show this coming Monday 10th February at The 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street London. The Duel and Freedom Faction are also on the bill with Segs is DJ-ing until the early hours of Tuesday morning; there's one of those new-fangled Facebook 'Event' pages dedicated to it that you can find here if you so desire, and it's the first of thirteen Reggae Punk Mondays at the venue promoted by FFRUK. The whole thing has the makings of a classic evening and tickets are only £3 - so what are you waiting for? See you down the front!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

'Weren't you here last night?'

Another busy few days with very little blogging time - well, it's better than having nothing to do isn't it?

With the first ever Ruts D.C. acoustic show upcoming on Monday 10th February at The 12 Bar Club in London Segs, Dave and myself met up on Tuesday morning armed with two acoustic guitars and a variety of percussion instruments to put together a set for said show. A few hours later it was all starting to make sense - some unlikely songs from the band's illustrious back catalogue may well find their way to the stage alongside the more familiar material, and we all agreed that it should be a very interesting evening. Segs and myself found ourselves at The 12 Bar Club that night too, along with Ruts D.C. (and quite a few other people's) sound man Nick and Tara from The Duel (she's putting the Monday night shows together for 13 weeks following our gig) ostensibly to discuss the show but somewhat inevitably to also have far too much to drink. Well, I certainly did. Ooops! The next day in Balcony Shirts was a little, shall we say, fragmented from my point of view, as well it might have been...

On Thursday Ruts D.C. were back in the familiar surroundings of The Music Complex in Deptford - this time Segs and myself had electric instruments and Dave was back behind a drum kit for a rehearsal that saw us continue to work on new material as well as revise songs from last year's live shows and try a few more tunes from the back catalogue. Any or all of the material attempted might find it's way to the stage at this coming weekend's German shows - and it might not as well! On the way home I stopped off at The Ship in Wardour Street for a birthday drink with Richard England of Cadiz Music - when I left things were in full swing, and Richard certainly seemed to be having a good time. Excellent!
Sam, Leigh and Pete
prop each other up after
an epic BTZ rehearsal.

By an odd twist of fate I played two consecutive shows with two different bands at The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham on Friday and Saturday. The first night featured The Upper Cut (our singer Terry was suffering from the full horror of ManFlu but gave a good performance all the same) while Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gave a suitably energetic show on the second night. And today Back To Zero had their first rehearsal of the year - we've got a gig in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday 15th February and with regular bassman Johnny Squirrel unavailable for the show friend-of-the band  Pete Jones (he used to play in Public Image ltd - excellent!) has stepped into the fray alongside founder members Sam and Andy. Judging by how he played today he's going to make a very good job of things. I also recorded some guitar parts for an upcoming 7'' vinyl single - more news on that in the not-too-distant future.

Ok - this week more studio stuff, more rehearsing, and I'm playing with Big Al and co. in Colnbrook at Ye Olde George Inn (again!) on Sunday afternoon - if I get back from Germany in time...