Monday, October 27, 2014

'We're a garage band, we come from garageland...'

In a week that saw the extraordinary news that Wilko Johnson is 'free of cancer' the music world lost reggae singer extraordinaire John Holt, glam rock hero Alvin Stardust, Chas & Dave drummer Mick Burt, 'Baker Street' sax man Raphael Ravenscroft and Cream bass legend Jack Bruce. Talk about not getting something for nothing eh?

On Saturday night Ruts D.C. headlined The Garage in Islington. We gathered at The Music Complex in Deptford on Friday to rehearse for the show - our time together began in the cafe opposite for what Segs dubbed a 'bonding breakfast' and a tactical discussion. Sometime in the next few hours we also found time to visit a secondhand clothing shop (I bought a black jacket which I wore next night at the show) and a Vietnamese restaurant (sweet and sour tofu - excellent!) as well as putting together a 75 minute set which included 'Different View' for the first time since 1982. I remember seeing them play the song several times and have always thought it to be one of the band's best songs so it was great to see it on the setlist at last. Needless to say we then repaired to The Little Crown for a couple of pints of their always - wonderful Guinness, during which Segs and myself suddenly remembered that we'd had a conversation with U.K. Subs guitarist Jet a few weeks earlier when we'd discussed the idea of him playing with us at the gig; text messages were sent, phone calls were made and a plan came together...

4.30pm the next day and we've just soundchecked with the afore - mentioned 'Different View', it's sounding great and spirits are high. We've got Bob behind the mixing desk, Owen is stage managing the evening and we've finished well within our allotted time. But surely we've forgotten something... as if by magic another guitarist appears, plugs into my spare amplifier (a Fender Blues Junior in case you were wondering; I'm using my 'usual' Blues Deluxe) and within seconds we're blasting through 'In A Rut' and sounding, well, like we usually do but with Jet joining us on guitar - in other words, pretty good!  
After meeting up with various people at The Wig And Gown (an excellent punky pub just along the Holloway Road) it was back in time to catch most of the set from opening act The Duel, who sounded the best that I'd seen them for quite a while. Evil Blizzard were up next - with only 30 minutes to work with (I'm sure that they've got songs longer than that!) they got straight into things and left many - an audience member looking bewildered by the end of their first song. Surreal moment followed surreal moment - at one point they even had someone mopping up on the stage! - and I'm sure they had five bass players instead of the usual four at one point. Great stuff, and not an easy act to follow. We'd better get on with it then... and get on with it we did. Even though I say so myself we started well and got better as the show went on, with the only hiccup being a fault with Segs's bass during 'SUS' (Dave stated 'I bet you never thought you'd hear a drum solo at a Ruts show' then proceeded to play one!) Once that was fixed we carried on where we left off, with 'Different View' going down particularly well. In no time at all we're at the end of the set, and Jet joins us for a thunderous 'In A Rut' that brings the proverbial house down. We're on a curfew (there was a club night after our gig) but there's still time for an encore of 'Something That I Said' and 'Society' to finish a truly memorable show. Afterwards there time for a few drinks and to chat to quite a few people, after which we return to The Wig And Gown for, er, a few drinks and, er, to chat to quite a few people - which explains why I didn't get this written up yesterday. Well, I wasn't feeling too good...

But I felt better after reading this review from the always - excellent Elvis In The Clouds blog. Thank you Mr. Presley!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Are you experienced?

Well it's been a relatively quiet week in mad-guitar-World, although given what's on the horizon (and indeed what's happening over the last few weeks) this may not be a bad thing. Still I managed to play a couple of gigs, the first of which was with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Three Mariners in Bagshot. It's a good little venue but it does have a very low ceiling with even lower beams, meaning that anyone approaching six feet in height has to watch themselves for fear of bumping their head. Well the clue is in the name - Big Al had more than a few near misses before eventually banging his forehead halfway through our first. 'I'd just took my hat off as well' said the man himself before putting said hat back on - but it was a good gig, as was last night when The London Sewage Company played at The 12 Bar Club. Considering that we've only played a few shows we're really starting to sound good, and with new songs being added all the time and recording being planned the band is developing well. Most of all it's good fun, which means a lot in these troubled times - talking of which it seems that the days are numbered for The 12 Bar Club as Denmark Street is due to be redeveloped in the near future. This is a terrible shame - the area has so much musical history, not to mention some of the best instrument shops that you're ever likely to visit. Knocking it all down seems like madness to me - mind you, there's a lot of that about sometimes isn't there?

On the subject of musical instrument shops myself and Big Al guitarist Pete (sometimes he deps for me, sometimes we play the show together, sometimes I do them on my own) found ourselves at Charlie Chandler's Guitar Experience in Hampton yesterday morning. Simon Bishop from The Good Old Boys works there teaching guitar and had recommended that we paid the shop a visit; I'm pleased to say that we weren't disappointed to the extent that we both said words to the effect of 'we'd better get out of here before we start buying things'. Mind you I suppose that's the idea of a shop... still it was great to see such an excellent selection of guitars and gear, and I have a feeling that we'll be there again before too long.
A busy Saturday also saw Flying Squad singer Andy celebrating his 50th birthday with a party at his place. Myself and Squad sticksman Andy went to see him late afternoon as we both had gigs in the evening (he was depping with Big Al and co!) and it was good to catch up with him. We all agreed that we really must get The Flying Squad back onto a stage as soon as possible. And we really must!

This week all roads lead to Islington, as Ruts D.C. are playing at The Garage this coming Saturday 25th October with Evil Blizzard and The Duel. To this end myself and Segs got together last Thursday to discuss tactics, and with rehearsals booked for this week it's looking like being a fine evening. Well, I'm certainly looking forward to it...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pictures at an exhibition

Bob Gruen is a name that is synonymous with rock music photography. Last Thursday evening I found myself at The Huntingdon Gallery in Shoreditch at an exhibition of said photos, and very good it was too. (Incidentally you may well be wondering how on Earth a herbert like myself got invited to a gathering such as this? Simple - Dave Ruffy was drumming in the band that played at the after show party. There is rarely mystery in life is there?) Myself and Segs (accompanied by Vivien of Holloway and her friends) arrived to find things in full swing and the walls adorned with some of the most iconic rock photos of them all. The man himself was in attendance (I managed a quick hello and got a nod in return) as were various other luminaries (including Martin Chambers and Jim Jones - oh yes!) and with a free bar the atmosphere was predictably jovial. Unsurprisingly people started to leave when the bar closed - most made their way around the corner to The Ace Hotel (although we found ourselves in the nearby Dragon Bar for a wee while) where Walter Lure led a band that also featured Neil from The Montecristos through a set of Johnny Thunders songs and rock 'n' roll standards. Their raucous rough-around-the-edges show (which featured a guest appearance by Marc Almond singing 'Brand New Cadillac') went down well with all concerned, after which I was obliged to leave at some speed to get a tube train home. As I made my way towards Liverpool Street Station I was accosted by a rough-looking chap asking for money 'to get some heroin, anything, even a few pence would help'. Such is life that I ran for it, albeit with 'Chinese Rocks' ringing in my ears. And did I really bump into Kate Moss on the stairs? Yes, incredibly, I did.

With no gig of my own on Friday night I found myself doing what I often do in this situation - going to watch another band play. And what better place to go than Tropic At Ruislip? It's always a good venue to support methinks, and it was excellent to see it so full when I arrived. ELO Again were the featured act, and I was intrigued to see how they would fare, as The Electric Light Orchestra material features some very complex arrangements. I'm pleased to say that they sounded very good indeed, and the sold out crowd loved them from the first song to the last. Personally I prefer the earlier songs ('Ma-Ma-Ma Belle' being a particular favourite) but there's no denying the excellence of Jeff Lynne's songwriting. And you forget just how many hits they had don't you? 

Two gigs from Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks this weekend, the first of which was at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth. I'd not played with the band for what felt like ages - it was actually less than a month, but as I say it seemed a lot longer - so I spent a bit of time revising the material, and I'm glad that I did as there are more than enough twists and turns in the songs to catch you out if you don't know them. It was a good gig although it's not the easiest place to play - there's not a lot of room, and you can't play too loud (never a good prospect!) but overall I think we didn't do a bad job, with the only downside being a drunk fella who kept wanting to try my hat on. Silly boy.
The next afternoon we returned to Ye Olde George in Colnbrook for a show that I for one thought was much better than the previous evening's effort - The Upper Cut are back there on Saturday 1st November which should hopefully also be a good night, as should this coming Saturday's 12 Bar Club gig by The London Sewage Company. Well, that should be good if last night's rehearsal is anything to go by... and then my friends, Ruts D.C. play in London - but more about that next time.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Jonesing for Jones

Post tour psychosis has all but worn off, so it's back to the real World - sort of...

'Twas an interesting evening on Wednesday, which began at The Islington in, er, Islington where Word In Your Ear presented a live show by Duncan Reid and The Big Heads and an interview with T.V. Smith. I remember The Word magazine being a good read so was interested to see how the evening would go - when I arrived T.V. was readying himself for his slot. He was interviewed by Alex Gold (who is also in DR and the BHs) and also read a couple of stories from 'Book Of The Year' his latest volume of tour diaries, and very entertaining it was too. After a short break Mr. Reid and co. took to the stage, and I must say that they were absolutely excellent. With two very good-looking young ladies on guitar and drums they blasted into their set with great energy and aplomb - such was their brilliance that I considered not leaving early to go to The 12 Bar Club, but in the end the lure of The Fallen Leaves proved too much. However I will be doing my best to catch Duncan Reid and The Big Heads again as soon as possible.
I arrived at The 12 Bar Club just as The Transients were finishing with 'Another Girl, Another Planet'; after catching up with club manager Mark (who of course is also the singer in The London Sewage Company - we're playing at the club on Saturday 18th October) it was time for The Fallen Leaves whose blazing performance might well be one of the best shows I've seen them play. A terrific night all round.

And it was a terrific night on Friday when The Upper Cut played at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. Sadly there haven't been too many shows for the band lately, which is a real shame as when we do get together it's pretty much always an enjoyable experience; with no time to rehearse we could have been a bit tighter here and there but that aside it was a fine gig with everyone on top form. Perhaps rehearsing would have ruined it?!?

Saturday night saw The Jim Jones Revue play their farewell show at The Forum in Kentish Town. I got there just as Walter Lure was taking to the stage with 'One Track Mind'. As the sole surviving member of Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers he waved the New York rock 'n' roll flag with great aplomb - and it was great to Darren from The Black Bombers up there on bass too. Next up was 'surprise guest' Nick Lowe who played a solo set on acoustic guitar - I've always been a big fan of Basher, and I'm pleased to say that he sounded as great as ever. An already excellent evening then took off into the stratosphere as The Jim Jones Revue gave an astonishing performance that served as both a masterclass in live rock rock 'n' roll and a fitting end to one of the great bands of the last few years. It's a shame that it's all over, but I for one will keeping an eye out for what the various members do next.
While The Jim Jones Revue were raising the roof in Kentish Town the first night of Polyfest II was happening at The Half Moon in Putney. Ruts D.C. headlined the second night on Sunday - we were due to play '3 or 4 songs' but in the end played 7, and a splendid time was had by all. With all proceeds going to The Teenage Cancer Trust it was I feel a fitting way to honour the memory of Poly Styrene - let's hope it happens every year.

And here is a review of the event courtesy of the excellent Elvis In The Clouds blog which pretty much sums up proceedings...

Last night the afore-mentioned London Sewage Company had a rehearsal in preparation for the afore-mentioned 12 Bar Club gig. With new songs to work on and old songs to revise everybody got on with the job in hand, and with another rehearsal booked for next Monday we should be in good shape for the show. In the meantime there are Big Al gigs to play and Ruts D.C. gigs to prepare for, so it's back to the real World - sort of...