Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Boys, boys, it's a sweet thing...'

Another weekend, another two great Ruts D.C. gigs (this time in Manchester and Buckley, both places that we played on last year's Damned tour and both great shows in excellent venues) and another few days that leave me little if any time for blogging. Ah well - maybe I will write an extended account of this tour at some point in the not-too-distant future, if only to give me chance to mention that we played with Steve Ignorant (who's last song was a splendid version of David Bowie's 'Sweet Thing'. Good choice!) at the Manchester show. Then again the way things are going maybe I won't - I spent today in a very busy Balcony Shirts and am due to be in there again tomorrow, Wednesday and Saturday; I'm rehearsing with Department S on Wednesday evening as I'm depping with them at The 229 Club in London next Saturday when they're on with The Members and tomorrow evening will be the only chance I've got to run through the songs before rehearsal. And this Friday I'm DJ-ing - yes, DJ-ing! - at The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston this Friday when my mate Darren from Idle Fret Records is putting on the legend that is Johnny Moped. I've got little if any idea of how to do that DJ-ing lark so I'd better get learning! And on Saturday I've got my first gig for over a month with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks - it's at The Dolphin in Uxbridge so at least I'm on familiar ground. Still however you look at it I've not really got time to be sitting here typing so I'd better stop and play some Department S songs. Or revise some of Big Al's material. Or read up on the art of the disc jockey. Or something.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Donkey Derby

Another three memorable gigs this weekend, but with nowhere near enough time to write up a detailed account this is about the best that I can do at the moment...

If you had happened to find yourself in The Costa Coffee Shop next to the Kings Cross Premier Inn at around one o'clock on Thursday afternoon then you would have seen the various members of the Ruts D.C. touring party amassing in anticipation of three shows in the Midlands. Before very long we were wending our way to The Donkey in Leicester, a splendid establishment which we first encountered after we'd played a show with The Damned at the nearby Academy almost a year ago. Warren and Zoe run a great venue, and I for one was very pleased when we were booked to play there. Electric River were due to support but sadly they were unable to make it leaving us as the only band on the bill. After soundchecking I met up with my old mate Mac, who I first met the best part of 30 years ago when he used to book The Price at The Square in Harlow and who now plays bass with Roddy Radiation and The Skabilly Rebels. After having a drink in the pub next door (I can't remember the name but they serve really good Indian food!) we returned to the venue which by then was filling up nicely - by showtime the place was packed and we gave a suitably raucous performance to the general approval of all concerned. A great gig.

Talking of The Damned we also played The Assembly in Leamington Spa with them on last year's tour, and we returned there on Friday evening. I don't mind admitting that I was concerned that the venue was too big for us but in the event there was more than enough people there to make the evening work. When we arrived there was a Wishbone Ash setlist on the drum riser, an item which would play an unexpected part in the evening's proceedings, as Segs used it to perform a paper tearing version of 'Human Punk'. Strange but true - and if you don't believe me here is visual evidence... in the meantime band biographer Roland Link came to the show as did Captain Sensible's guitar tech and Abatis Studios supremo Jon Priestly, and we all took photos in Tammy Wynette's old touring caravan which is one of the many unlikely items in the backstage area. A highly enjoyable evening.

And on Saturday night we headlined the 'Skahumbug!' festival at The Hairy Dog in Derby. When we got there Random Hand were about to begin - they played an agreeably noisy and energetic set to the near-full room before we set about setting up; often all-day events in pubs aren't particularly great, especially if you're on near the end as the audience can be somewhat jaded by then - but not in this case, and we went on to play a storming set to the very enthusiastic audience and to bring our three-shows-in-the-Midlands to an excellent end.

I'd hoped to be back in time to play at The Horns in Watford with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks on Sunday afternoon but sadly travel chaos (why oh why does the whole bloody country fall apart when it rains?!?) meant that this wasn't possible - however I did make it along to Tropic At Ruislip in the evening to see Willie Nile. I'd missed him on several previous occasions due to having gigs elsewhere but I'm glad I got along this time as I really enjoyed the show. And with Christmas coming things are getting busy at Balcony Shirts so I'll be in there this week before heading to Manchester and Buckley at the weekend for two more Ruts D.C. shows. More is more...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Farewell To Arms

First things first - the always-worth-reading Louder Than War website has reviewed the Ruts D.C. albums 'Live On Stage' and 'Rhythm Collision Volume 1'. You can read all about it here - thanks Ged!

Meanwhile Ruts D.C. have played four memorable shows in Scotland. I wrote a suitably over-verbose (and let's face it, overlong!) piece on proceedings in the bus on our epic journey home yesterday, but I haven't got time to type it up here before we leave for the next batch of shows on Thursday so it's gone into the same pile as all the other pieces that I write for these hallowed pages that never see the light of day. There isn't actually that many of them, but I thought that the last line sounded good... however this one and my account of our European tour back in September will hopefully get written up over the Christmas period or in the all-too-quiet-looking month of January. In the meantime Dave and Segs have been writing some excellent blogs which can be found on the band's website, and here are some heavily-edited highlights from my point of view :-

Thursday 13th - The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh

A great venue and a great gig, with excellent support provided by The Fast Girls (splendid boy on guitar / girl on bass vocal harmonies) and Finger Halo who featured ex - Rezillos / Human League guitarist Jo Callis and who played 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' by The Kinks and 'The Supermen' by David Bowie, which has to be a good thing if you think about it. The Bow Bar a few doors along was the best post show drink for quite some time.

Friday 14th - Buskers, Dundee

Visited Hog's Head Records (after being invited there by Tim the boss who was at our gig the previous evening) and Guitar Guitar (in search of a Vox AC15 to try next to an AC30) in the morning before travelling to Dundee for a seemingly under-promoted but nevertheless very enjoyable show. As we arrived back from eating at the noisiest Wetherspoons pub that I've ever been in support band The Cherry Bombz played 'Staring At The Rude Boys' amongst their array of punk covers. Weird!

Saturday 15th - Audio, Glasgow

Saw my great mate John Barnson at the gig who presented me with a bottle of Valt Scottish vodka and a Government health warning. The Media Whores and Hateful provided superb support (the former being aided and abetted by an, er, exotic dancer and the latter finishing with a great version of the McGuinness Flint classic 'When I'm Dead And Gone') and Johnny the bagpipes player joined us for 'In A Rut'. Surreal! We attended The Alabama 3 aftershow party (they'd been playing at The ABC) with predictable results. Good job I hadn't opened the vodka.

Sunday 16th - The Moorings Bar, Aberdeen

Rapidly becoming one of our favourite venues, this was a suitably raucous end to our Scottish shows. On the way there we stopped at Ye May Gang Fair And Fare War, a fantastic service station like something from another time; before the show Segs used a fork to turn his broken glasses into a pair of what might best be described as 'punky - pince nez' (that's where the title of this posting comes from!) and we very didn't make it from the dressing room to the stage as we were laughing so much at each other's trombone impersonations. Really.

So there you have it - the full story another time. Probably. In the meantime we're in Leicester on Thursday, Leamington Spa on Friday and Derby on Saturday. See you there if you're going...

Sunday, November 09, 2014

North East Calling

I have just - just! - returned from the first three shows of the twelve that Ruts D.C. will be playing in the month of November, and I'm pleased to say that barring the odd technical hitch they all went very well. Heavy traffic (and indeed heavy rain) meant that we were an hour late arriving at The Wardrobe in Leeds for the first show on Thursday but our new driver / backline man Jon got us all there in one piece - after an excellent support set from The Expelaires (who reminded your humble narrator of early U2, which is never a bad thing in my book) we took to the stage at 9.15 for a splendid 75 minute set with sound man Bob getting everything sounding pretty near perfect. After the show Rhiannon does a roaring trade on the merchandise and we chat many-an audience member, all of whom seemed to enjoy the show which is always good news. And it was great to see Phil from Bug with his wife Annette and my old mate and fellow Chicago Blues Brothers escapee Matt too. From there it was back to the hotel for a drink (ok then, quite a few drinks!) before bringing a long day to a close.

The next morning we breakfasted amid stories of cannibalism on the television news (Dave - 'if you were going to eat someone you wouldn't start with their face would you?') we all agreed that it had been a great gig to start the tour with. With the rain continuing to fall we left for Newcastle not long after checking out at midday, arriving at The Cluny a little after 2pm. I'd not been there before although it's a very well-established venue which has been putting on live music for many years - we'd not been there long before Martin McAloon appears to say hello to Segs and Dave, he's the former bass player in Prefab Sprout, brother of Sprout singer / songwriter Paddy McAloon and an old friend of them both. After setting up and soundchecking there time for me to help Segs solder a couple of leads in one of his bass guitars before we have a meal in the venue bar then head off to The Vermont Hotel to check in and have an hour-and-a-bit off before returning to The Cluny just in time to catch the guitar / vocals / backing tracks duo The Symptoms. Perhaps inevitably they bring Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine to mind, which can't be bad can it? Our sound isn't quite as good as the previous night, with a couple of monitor problems and a microphone failure but none of this bothers the audience, most of whom go crazy from the word go. Once again there's time to speak to some of the crowd afterwards before retiring to our hotel for, you've guessed it, a drink or two. And why not?

Saturday morning's weather was a distinct improvement on the previous couple of days, and with only a relatively short drive in prospect there's a chance to spend a couple of hours in Newcastle before leaving for the next hotel. This can only mean one thing - a visit to Guitar Guitar is in order. Within no time myself and Bob were ensconced in one of the demonstration booths there with a Vox AC30 - I'd wanted to try one for a while as I'd heard great things about the latest model, and I must say that it sounded absolutely tremendous. I've also been told that the AC15 is worth a listen so I'm hoping to find one or those at either the Edinburgh or Glasgow shops this weekend. We also auditioned an Electro Harmonix B9 organ simulator pedal which sounded frankly astonishing - there go the wages I fear... from there it was the afore-mentioned drive up to Stockton-on-Tees where we're returning to The Georgian Theatre around a-year-and-a-half on from our first visit. Steve and Martin of Big Figure Promotions were very helpful, support bands The Iron Hearts and The Filth both played well and we gave a good show despite more microphone problems - in Bob's words, 'I took 'em all of the shelf in the warehouse, and that's where they're going back to!' 

Today it's been the long drive home, and I don't mind admitting that I'm feeling very tired now. Still there are four shows in Scotland on the horizon - now that's something to really look forward to! Mind you, that'll be an even longer drive home...

Sunday, November 02, 2014

'One last bout before the year is out? Thought you'd never ask...'

Following on from last weekend's Islington extravaganza Ruts D.C. have 12 gigs this month, starting in Leeds this Thursday - as the accompanying flyer shows we'll be covering a fair few miles, and it goes without saying (but I'm going to say it anyway!) that I'm really looking forward to getting out and about again. If you coming to a show then please say hello!

Meanwhile it's been three gigs in three days for your humble narrator, starting with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale. It being the night before Halloween Al suggested that we play 'Monster Mash' - I remember the record well from when I was a lad (by the splendidly-named Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and The Crypt Kickers, although I believe The Misfits among others have covered it) and even though we hadn't had chance to rehearse it beforehand we played it well with the only downside to an otherwise good night for the band coming when somebody knocked Al's saxophone over. Fortunately it wasn't too badly damaged, but sadly the same thing happened the next night when the band played at The Black Horse in Eastcote. This time it was more serious as one of the keys got bent, to such an extent that we were obliged to leave several songs out of the show. Bah! Still I'm told that it's since been repaired, and once again 'Monster Mash' went well as indeed did the rest of the show. There are some pictures from the show on Al's Facebook page - as you can see I was too miserable to dress up for the occasion... ah well, maybe next year? And last night The Upper Cut played at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook. We've not played together very often lately so there were a few dodgy moments - still judging by people's comments afterwards everyone there everyone there enjoyed our efforts, and we managed to play the Cream (yes I know that it's a Robert Johnson song, but most people heard it first by Cream or Eric Clapton didn't they?!?) classic 'Crossroads' for Jack Bruce which has got to be a good thing if you think about it.

Right - tomorrow it's a day in Balcony Shirts, Tuesday it's a Ruts D.C. rehearsal and Wednesday I'm back in the shop before the first batch of shows in Leeds, Newcastle and Stockton-on-Tees start on Thursday. Busy busy busy - the rest of today off methinks...