HARD SKIN / PKN / GOOD THROB / INTERROBANG?! at the Lexington

Typical of me I’d adopted a “I’ll do that later” approach to getting my tickets for Hard Skin’s Christmas bash and only really took proper notice once they’d sold out. Luckily for me my old friend James Sherry came up with the goods at the last minute and so thankfully I made my way to Kings Cross on Saturday night with another old gigging partner – Jake from UK Resist.

Inside the venue at 8pm the crowd is building up nicely when a man in a suit appears at the back of the hall shouting into a megaphone. He clambers up on the stage still making his point and then the rest of Interrobang?! (a guitarist and drummer but no bassist) join in. That vocal style is immediatley familiar even if the musics not – Harry and Dunstan from Chumbawamba make up two thirds of the outfit. They fill the sound out nicely with guitar loops and are blessed with a spot on mix from the sound desk. Subjects are largely familiar (their view of social change with the benefit of decades of real life experience) with the exception of a brave song about the death of a parent. Their first gig was only back in October but already they have confidence and a wealth of material and receive a warm reaction form the audience.

Changing tack somewhat with a heavily distorted sound Good Throb arrive on stage and start out blasting tribal drum based simple but effective tirades. These three ladies and one man really go for it throughout their performance. Quite why the singer wears marigold gloves throughout is something I never worked out (maybe I should have asked !) but I loved their attitude and the way their music hits home at a really basic level. Looking forward to tracking down some recordings so if you know of any….

Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (PKN for short) are a Finnish punk band who have achieved a level of fame through being the subject of a documentary ‘The Punk Syndrome’. Each member has learning difficulties and the film covers their lives inside and outside of the band. After tonights show I can’t wait to see it, they were just excellent and received a fantastic response from the crowd. Each member of the band expresses real character with drummer Toni being a particular favourite of mine. Bands should entertain and they certainly did that, in fact as they walked off stage after a great set I happened to be  standing next to Johnny Takeaway of Hard Skin who was staring incredulously and I overheard him say “How the fuck do we follow that”?! (see what I did there – I had to get an Interrobang (?!) in this review somewhere)!

The answer to that is of course is simply to play their very effective brand of street anthems, indulge in some very amusing in between song banter and get the crowd joining in by calling themselves wankers. Hard Skin’s songs owe a great deal to the Cockney Rejects and that basic Oi sound. In fact they out Oi many Oi bands and that’s why despite having their tongue firmly in their cheeks their love for the genre has resulted in some truly memorable classics. With so many crowd pleasers including “We Are the Wankers”, “Sausage Man” and “Boys In Blue” they go down a storm and a short but consistently on the money set meant that everyone left happy with their favourite Hard Skin song lodged firmly in their head. All together now “You what. You what…”

Watch videos from the gig:

Hard Skin playing Boys In Blue live at the Lexington / PKN live 

Good Throb live at the Lexington

Interrobang?! playing Are You Ready People live at the Lexington

Interrobang?! (photo: Steve Cotton)

Good Throb (photo: Steve Cotton)

Good Throb (photo: Steve Cotton)

Good Throb (photo: Steve Cotton)

PKN (photo: Steve Cotton)

PKN (photo: Steve Cotton)

Hard Skin’s Johnny Takeaway (photo: Steve Cotton)

Destination Punk – Svenja Block’s Barb Wire Dolls photographic document book review

DESTINATION PUNK : BARB WIRE DOLLS by SVENJA BLOCK 200 pages, paperback, Countdown Books, ISBN 099283046X

Photo books dedicated solely to just one band are usually reserved for multi million selling artists. So when I first heard that photographer Svenja Block was putting together a book on the Barb Wire Dolls, a rapidly rising but still underground unit, I was pretty impressed at her ambition. Just how do you fill 200 pages with photos of what is essentially four people playing live and keep it interesting? Well, take pretty much the most photogenic band I’ve ever seen and combine them with Svenja’s inspirational photography that absolutely captures the essence of the band in their live environment and it all starts to look easy. In concert the whole band fire on all four cylinders, they have ‘ingredient x’ in abundance and their relentless energy and fitness means that opportunities for freezing moments of pure rock’n'roll passion come thick and fast. The photos in this book are captured over several locations in the UK and Germany with the first one being a completely naked man confronting the band in Hastings, England and the last a portrait of singer Isis Queen staring directly at the photographer. Isis just suits black and white so well, there are echoes of Debbie Harry, of all those photos you’ve seen of raw punk bands playing at CBGB’s and the 100 Club, of a dirty, filthy, sexual rock’n'roll past. Sometimes punk seems a little too safe these days, just the reheating embers of fires that have long since died down. Barb Wire Dolls burn like petrol has been poured on the fire. They play with the intensity of a band that just love to tear it up live. Guitarist Pyn Doll has a long history of previous bands and a straightforward dirty but perfect punk rock guitar sound whilst Krash Doll plays a stripped down drum kit like his life was depending on how hard he hits it. There are two bassists featured here too, with the most recent addition – JayJay Doll – fitting into the groove of the whole thing effortlessly. Buy Destination Punk and you’ll wish you were at the shows, What’s more you’ll know that punk rock is still dangerous, still vital, that it very much didn’t die in ’78 and that there are great photographers out there still capturing it all.

BROKEN BONES / FREEBASE at the Pipeline

BROKEN BONES / FREEBASE – Saturday 29th November 2014, Pipeline London

London Launch night for the new Broken Bones 12″ single sided EP Dead and Gone”. A real return to form this one with a reworked manic version of City Fodder along with a standout track in Tread On Me. The band are backing it up live too, best I’ve seen them in ages. Support came from fellow hardcore but more metallic thrashers Freebase. Guitarist , Ryan’s last gig with the band, he bowed out in style.

Watch Freebase play 23 years at the Pipeline

Watch Broken Bones play State Violence State Control live at the Pipeline

Broken Bones (all photos Steve Cotton)

SHE MAKES WAR / ANDY RUDDY at the Old Queens Head

SHE MAKES WAR / ANDY RUDDY Tuesday 25th November 2014 at the Old Queens Head, Islington

My record collection seems to be narrowing as I get older. Pretty all much all I’m buying these days is punk and certainly all the gigs I go to are in that category. So what am I doing in the Old Queens Head in Islington on a Tuesday night listening to She Makes War playing a Uke? Simple really, I love her work and have done so for a good while now. I think it started when I saw her video for Slow Puncture which has a street art theme (not to mention polar bears and Star Wars Stormtroopers). It’s a beautiful song and got me intrigued so I invested in a CD album and was struck by the DIY ethic she has and the way she connects with her fans. Anyway, to cut a long story short, having ‘attended’ a few online gigs I finally had the opportunity to see her live shortly after she had finished a long tour with The Levellers. First up, however, was Andy Ruddy, a singer songwriter from Bradford. Having overcome a few problems with a lack of sound from the accompanying keyboards he quickly had the audience on side and received a warm welcome. There was a great atmosphere all night and his gentle songs and good humour seemed a big hit with the crowd.

She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) describes her music as gloom-pop, certainly there is much talk of issues with ex boyfriends  but it’s never depressing. It’s just fascinating to see how she fills the room with sound, recording loops live and setting them running, building up layers and then even leaving them playing on stage while she walks around the room singing though a megaphone on ‘Delete’. Personal favourites such as the aforementioned Slow Puncture and Scared To Capsize are perfectly formed songs and are spellbinding to hear live. The Old Queens Head feels like a front room tonight. I don’t know anyone here, I’ve gone to this on my own but it doesn’t matter a jot as we’re all sitting or standing quietly captivated by what’s going on. Laura explains how she likes to work as an independent artist using social media and crowd funded projects to work collaboratively with those who appreciate her music. In fact her new album Direction Of Travel is being created in exactly this way. There are no barriers in the way between the artist and her audience and a real self reliance to what she does. That’s a pretty punk attitude – maybe I’m at a punk gig yet again after all. I loved it and I know I’ll be back again.

She Makes War at the Old Queens Head, Islington 

THE COMPUTERS / COLT 45 at The Barfly

THE COMPUTERS / COLT 45  - Tuesday November 18th 2014 - Camden Barfly.

Sold out in a matter of hours the Computers at the Camden Barfly was always going to be a bit special, Support came from Colt45 who had traveled a long way to be here. They got the evening off to a rocking start before the Computers took to the stage. Racing through a high octane romp of rock’n'roll, soul and punk the Exeter outfit used the entirety of the venue parting the crowd and jumping on bars. Now that’s a night out!

Support came from Colt 45

The Computers – Camden Barfly

The Computers, Camden Barfly

The Computers, Camden Barfly

The Computers, Camden Barfly

Slab of hardcore: The Twin Dracula Death Is Our Client CD EP

Seeing The Twin Dracula for the first time earlier this year I can’t recall a time when I’ve ever had to readjust my preconceptions quite so fast. Ambling on stage to support GBH the singer has a haircut more in touch with rock’n’roll than punk rock and none of the rest of the band really looked like they were just about to rip through a blitzkrieg of thrashy anthems either. But that’s exactly what they did. And at least some of those songs, if not all, have ended up on this their recently released Death Is Our Client EP. I remember set closer Newtown Jazz Revival particularly well. In fact it’s the reason I was keen to track down this CD. With an ever present driving bass line which takes a nod to AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock it swirls in and out of raucousness and by TTD’s standards can best be described as mid paced. For most other bands that would be an up-tempo song but on the other two tracks on offer here the band push things more to the extreme which makes it sound almost pedestrian in comparison. Despite all the ferocity there’s room for respite from the onslaught contained in these songs too with the band effortlessly switching from the raging to a more ear friendly style mid tune. Preconceptions adjusted, this is one I can recommend.

Buy it here thetwindracula.com - Death Is Our Client 3 somg CD EP featuring the songs Nom De Plume / Occultimate Warrior / Newtown Jazz Revival

The Twin Dracula – Reading Sub 89 (photo Steve Cotton)

ANDY T / LOUISE DISTRAS / STEVE IGNORANT’S SLICE OF LIFE – Kingston Fighting Cocks

ANDY T / LOUISE DISTRAS / STEVE IGNORANT’S SLICE OF LIFE Saturday 11th October 2014 - Kingston Fighting Cocks

Didn’t know much about opener Andy T before this gig apart from his Crass Records release ‘Weary Of The Flesh’, certainly never seen him play before. Standing on stage with his notes, guitarist seated at his side he engaged the sparse crowd with angry polemic with a varied and well received set. The targets were familiar (I Still Hat Thatcher) but the passion shone through and for many it was a reaffirmation of what they already consider their opinions. Decent enough but I struggle with getting too enthused by just a guitar and a voice alone.

So up next was Louise Distras, another guitarist with just a voice. But what a voice! I’d first seen her live supporting GBH at the 100 Club and she was essentially the reason I made the effort to attend tonight. She demands attention from the very first song through her forceful delivery and a clear honesty in her conviction. She has a passion that fills the room and songs that lodge readily in the mind. Despite being the support act with the headliner to follow on leaving the venue it’s her song “Never Let The Hand You Hold Hold You Down” that I have going around my head. I bought a copy of her album Songs From The Factory Floor on the way out and I’m pleased to report it does her justice. Great album full of solid songs.

Louise Distras – Kingston Fighting Cocks (photo – Steve Cotton)

It’s odd seeing Steve Ignorant in a pretty small and half full pub back room. He’s got a new band with him, a stripped down and more melodic sound and a lot of life stories to tell. I’ll be honest here, the first two songs he went through I thought what the hell is this? Accompanied by stories of how wonderful sex under the light of a lamp post is he’d completely lost me. But then, little by little and over the rest of the set I became accustomed to his bands style, got more engrossed in his amusing stories and by the end he’d pretty much won me over. I’d not put this band in the ‘cancel all leave’ category for when they come to town, in fact I don’t really know if I’d bother to go and see them again but it was entertaining and thought provoking and portrayed him as just a person, a human being more than was ever possible than when he was in Crass. Talking of which, the audience were kind of expecting a song from that era. Steve didn’t disappoint, eventually ending with an encore of ‘So What’ which ended abruptly in good humour when he stopped the song before its climax and advised the audience they could go home and listen to the rest. Gig done, hat back in place atop his head, he slipped back into the crowd and the show came to an end.

SKEPTIX / BLATOIDEA at the Pipeline

SKEPTIX / BLATOIDEA – Saturday 18th October 2014, Pipeline London

Another Pipeline gig, this time seeing a welcome return to London for the Skeptix after an absence of 30 years. With Blatoidea and others in support this was one not to be missed. Blatoidea these days are a tight unit with some fast paced killer songs that through constant gigging and youtube videos are becoming increasingly well known. An appreciative crowd got into it from the off and they set up things nicely for the headliners. Skeptix hit the stage and it was immediatley apparent the two original members left were the ones the band couldn’t really do without. Fish’s driving guitar and the pretty much perfect urgent vocal style of the singer would be hard to replace.Most of my favourites from their classic singles (Peace Force, Routine Machine, Return to Hell) got a good airing. Skeptix have a fast and furious sound and were obviously relishing a chance to play the capital for the first time in such a long time. Great times, don’t leave it so long next time chaps!

Watch Blatoidea play Wake Up Dead live at the Pipeline.

(with apologies to Low Rollers and Overload – got there too late to catch these bands but reports were good)!

Skeptix – Pipeline, London

Fish from the Skeptix – Pipeline, London

Blatoidea – Pipeline, London

Blatoidea – Pipeline, London 

Blatoidea – Pipeline, London

Blatoidea – Pipeline, London

BARB WIRE DOLLS / MORGELLONS / CELLBOUND / GASOLINE THRILL at the Purple Turtle

BARB WIRE DOLLS / MORGELLONS / CELLBOUND / GASOLINE THRILL – Sunday 12th October 2014, Purple Turtle, Camden

It’s a mark of how far Barb Wire Dolls have come in a year that last time they were in London they were a support band but this time around they’re headlining at a decent sized venue. Whoever chose the line-up for this gig had variety in mind. I arrived too late to catch anything other than part of the last song by Gasoline Thrill. That sounded great in itself, my loss and I hope to see them again sometime soon.

Next up were Morgellons, a band I first saw in a pub in Staines. Tonight they have a proper stage and lighting (albeit a bit too red for decent photographs) and somehow it seemed to suit them better. They effortlessly captured the crowd’s attention with a fine set  of slow and mid paced thoughtful songs – no mindless thrashers here. They have a proper stage presence that doesn’t rely on speed or volume. I don’t really see any other bands operating in the same space at the moment and that can only be a good thing.

Cellbound announced themselves next and provided a stark contrast. Rough and ready looking they explained their moniker comes from the fact that everyone in the band had been ‘inside’ at some point in their lives. Their UK82 style of punk was of the heads down, no nonsense variety but unusually for the genre there was quite a bit that the vocalist barked that was easily understood. Three bands down and no complaints from me, this was shaping up to be a great night.

Barb Wire Dolls have a buzz about them right now and there were obviously various music industry figures down here to check them out. The band seem to genuinely love to play and had a lengthy set list in place – certainly well over the hour mark and including over 10 as yet unreleased songs that were not on their debut ‘Slit’ LP. They kick off as they mean to go on, full throttle and in your face. I took out my little camcorder to capture a bit of their performance only to have some woman shout in my ear “WOULD YOU LIKE THEM IF THEY WERE MEN”? – a clear reference to the fact that singer Isis Queen dresses exactly how she wants and that the band now have a bassist to match. I reply “well yeah, I would”. Sure I like BWD because of their very photogenic stage presence but the songs are just such gems too that they could be the ugliest band in the world and I’d still make the effort. The fact that they’re not is hardly their fault. “Would you like them if they were men” is such a dumb comment to make when half the band are men – talk about missing the point. It’s Pyn’s 100% punk rock crunching guitar sound and Krash’s relentless pounding on the drums that have been driving this unit forward over the last few years. Now BWD have recruited a great bassist in JayJay they really have a band where everyone knows exactly what they are doing and it all clicks together wonderfully with the iconic Isis Queen leading things at the front. She’s a charismatic whirlwind, constantly moving, cajoling the crowd and encouraging them to engage with the band, taking herself off the stage to talk to individuals directly and literally grabbing them to get their attention. They’re a force to be reckoned with. Check out set closer Revolution in the video below.

Watch Barb Wire Dolls play Revolution live at the Purple Turtle, Camden

Watch Morgellons play Red Scab live at the Purple Turtle, Camden

 

Isis Queen, Barb Wire Dolls

Cellbound

Morgellons

Gasoline Thrill

Revolution time again

Barb Wire Dolls are back in the UK with their explosive mix of punk rock. You know good bands fire on all cyclinders and there’s no passengers in Barb Wire Dolls. Last time here singer Isis Queen got dumped on concrete but she’s made of kevlar – and was back playing the following night.

Isis Queen, Barb Wire Dolls ) photo: Steve Cotton

See them at the following venues:

02.10.14 UK Lowestoft – Granny’s
03.10.14 UK Middlesbrough – The Longlands Club
04.10.14 UK Leeds – The Packhorse
05.10.14 UK Edinburgh – Bannersman Live
07.10.14 UK Liverpool – Lomax
08.10.14 UK Grimsby – Yardbirds
09.10.14 UK Peterborough – Met lounge
10.10.14 UK Bristol – The Louisiana
11.10.14 UK Manchester – The Star and Garter
12.10.14 UK London – Purple Turtle Camden.

NO LIP at the Fox and Duck

NO LIP – Saturday 29th September 2014 at the Fox and Duck, Richmond

A quick jaunt out last night to catch No Lip playing in Petersham. Nothing on the telly (as usual) so what can be better than a bit of Saturday night punk rock? No Lip play some of the tunes you’d expect from a covers punk band (UK Subs and The Clash) along with some you had to dig a little deeper to hear (Cocksparrer’s Runnin’ Riot). They do them so well too with pretty much one song from each band chosen. And then without warning,  it ended all too suddenly and I was back to a boring Saturday night…great fun while it lasted. Cheers No Lip.

Watch No Lip playing Cocksparrer’s Runnin’ Riot here.

RED FRENZY / MANIAC at the Fighting Cocks

RED FRENZY / MANIAC Saturday 8th November at the Fighting Cocks, Kingston

Fun night at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston catching up with a lot of old faces. The evening started in fine style with the assorted keyboard wizardry of Transistor Quartet (Maniac’s old bass player) pumping out quality tunes good and loud followed by most of the rest of the old Maniac themselves running through songs both old and new.  RED were headlining (featuring ex March of Anger members) and delivered a confident performance of hard hitting rock/metal. Also enjoyed the Dirty Ugly Punk Monkeys doing punked up cover versions of pop classics – always thought Katy Perry’s Hot and Cold would make a great punk song - so it was great to hear a band giving it some live.

Watch Maniac playing ‘Say No’ live at the Fighting Cocks. Kingston

Watch Red play Communicate at Fighting Cocks, Kingston

James Jenkins, Maniac

Maniac, Kingston punk band

Red Frenzy

 

THE FITS / THE LURKERS / 16 GUNS at the 12 Bar Club

THE FITS / THE LURKERS / 16 GUNS Friday 5th September 2014, 12 Bar Club, London

I’d never seen the Fits before tonights gig. I think they’d moved on to other projects by the time I was really going to gigs on a routine basis. So I was really looking forward to seeing a band that made such rapid musical progress over their short career in the 80′s from quite basic but catchy punk to fully thought through and accomplished tracks like Peace and Quiet.

First up though were 16 Guns with Loric from Rage DC on guitar duties tonight. He slotted in just fine and the band know how to get people having a good time. They’ve got a fine set of proper no nonsense punk songs which’ll keep any audience happy.  Marie from Lost Cherrees also got up on stage to do a duet with singer Tom. We’re not talking about a Jason and Kylie ballad here but a version of that Motorhead / Girlschool classic ‘Please Don’t Touch’. Puts a smile on a lot of faces in the audience.

The Lurkers are one of those bands whose name has been around forever but I don’t know much about. I can’t explain why but I’ve never been that interested in finding out more save for having picked up a couple of OK albums along the way. Tonight though is a different matter, they played a wealth of catchy, solid punk rock songs that sounded crisp and punchy. Coupled with a great deal of good natured and very funny banter they provided excellent entertainment, taking the mickey out of their advancing years and in some cases their far from athletic builds. I think they converted me so I’ll be off to listen to some more of their back catalogue. It’s only taken me 30 years.

No such issues with the Fits. I think I own all of their releases and I’m very familiar with classics such as Tears Of A Nation and the aforementioned Peace and Quiet. Some of the best songs from that era and they more than stand the test of time.  It’s so good tonight to see original singer Mick giving them his all live. He’s a natural frontman, climbing up into the rafters of the 12 bar club to sing to the crowd below when managing to move about on the 12 Bars tiny stage is more than enough of a feat in itself. The Fits remain a quality outfit, well worth seeing. All in all a top night all round.

Watch The Fits play Peace and Quiet live at the 12 Bar Club

Watch the Lurkers play Pills live at the 12 Bar Club

The Fits

The Fits making full use of the 12 Bar Club

The Lurkers

The Lurkers at the 12 Bar Club

Tom from 16 Guns with Marie from Lost Cherrees

16 Guns, 12 Bar Club

44 FIRES at the Hobgoblin

44 FIRES Saturday 9th August 2014 at the Hobgoblin, Staines

44 Fires in the house, politically charged heavy metal is, for me, a difficult concept to get my head around but that is what 44 Fires deliver. With songs that hang around in your head for days these boys packed a punch.

Watch 44 Fires play live at the HobGoblin, Staines

44 Fires (photo: Steve Cotton)

 44 Fires at the Hobgoblin

THE SMEARS / BRAINS ALL GONE / 16 GUNS / LOST CHERREES at the Camden Unicorn

THE SMEARS / BRAINS ALL GONE / 16 GUNS / LOST CHERREES - Monday 4th August 2014 at the Camden Unicorn

Is it just me or does that line up look it should be the other way round – especially as this is in London? No matter I arrived early enough to see Lost Cherrees opening up. There’s something of pre Rebellion warm up feel to proceedings but the Cherrees put in a great set. I remember seeing them ‘back in the day’ and they could be a little ‘lightweight’ compared to their contemporaries (not necessarily a bad thing!) but these days they’ll hold their own with anyone. I still like old favourites like Living In A Coffin and more recent angry songs like Dear Tony but tonight a cover really stood out. As a set closer they played played Pulp’s Common People. It’s a song with a pretty spot on meaning and the band more than did it justice.

Next up were 16 Guns who I think improve every time I see them. I guess that comes from playing loads of gigs – they regularly appear on the bill of gigs I go to which is no bad things as they are now a fine unit who know how to get the crowd involved right from the off. Near the end we got to see Marie from the Lost Cherrees duet with singer Tom on ‘Please Don’t Touch’ – yeah, that Motorhead / Girlschool collaboration. Loved it, great fun.

It’s the second time I’ve seen Brains All Gone and in the same venue to boot. They seem to have grown in confidence since their performance here earlier in the year. Maybe the Unicorn is starting to feel like home to them? They certainly get a great reception and rightly so. They have written some damn fine songs. Singles ‘Education’ and ‘March Of The Youth’ being two favourites. In recorded form they are highly polished, super clear sounding pop punk classics but live they have a rougher, edgier sound. Singer Akjabus has a great rapport with the crowd and it’s so nice to see a sometimes snooty London crowd take a young female punk band from Krakow, Poland so readily to their hearts.

Last band on the bill were the Smears and lets just say that maybe this spot meant that they’d visited the bar once too often before they hit the stage. They take an age setting up when really they just needed to get started (it’s Monday and a ‘school night’ after all) and then they produce the set list on a bit of toilet roll (loved that)! When things get under way they are decent enough but I can’t help thinking I’m not seeing them at their best. A shame really as they split up not long after this gig. Maybe some other time ladies?

Watch Lost Cherrees playing Living In A Coffin and Common People live at the Unicorn

Watch Brains All Gone play March of The Youth live at the Unicorn, Camden

Watch members of 16 Guns and Lost Cherrees play Please Don’t Touch at Unicorn, Camden

The Smears

The Smears

The Smears

The Smears

Brains All Gone

Brains All Gone

Brains All Gone

Steve from 16 Guns

Tom from 16 Guns

Lost Cherrees

Lost Cherrees

Lost Cherrees

DOWN BY LAW / SOUTHPORT / THE CUT UPS at the Black Heart

DOWN BY LAW / SOUTHPORT / THE CUT UPS  - Friday 1st August 2014 Camden Black Heart

First up were the Cut Ups all the way from Exeter, a band who’ve been going for nearly a decade but one I knew nothing about. They play decent punk rock, seemed pretty sussed and got a decent enough reaction from the early arrivers in the crowd but it was all over too fast and too early.

Southport hit the stage at a more reasonable time and it was another fine performance at the Black Heart (I’d caught them here earlier in the year with HDQ). A little more rehearsed and a little more together they played  a decent selection of old and new from their catalogue. Singer guitarist Simon Wells has such a distinctive way of creating his own trademark sound with his playing hand moving up and down the neck of the guitar causing an ebb and flow to riffs. Their cover of “I Shot The Sherriff” is an absolute stand out both here and on the Southern Soul LP. Again though a relatively short set and we were left to await the arrival of Down By Law.

Dave Smalley is another singer/ guitarist but his past includes being the vocalist for seminal US hardcore acts DYS, Dag Nasty and All. It’s a real pleasure to see how relaxed he is now fronting up his own unit Down By Law. He has an easy way with the crowd, pretty humble in fact. I loved the way he praised an old school zine writer in the audience. So many times the people in the background of punk rock who work tirelessly and without pay get overlooked so it was great to see respect being paid in this way. In fact you got the impression that Dave Smalley both loves and cares deeply about punk rock based on his pronouncements from the stage. A great set of songs followed topped off with a very decent version of the old Dag Nasty standard “Under Your Influence”. A gig for the discerning, those who attended had been rewarded by a very decent line up for their effort.

 

Down By Law

Down By Law

Down By Law

Simon Wells from Southport (photo: Steve Cotton)

The Cut Ups (photo: Steve Cotton)

The Cut Ups (photo: Steve Cotton)

 

GBH / THE TWIN DRACULA / RAGE DC – Sub89, Reading

GBH / THE TWIN DRACULA / RAGE DC - Friday 25th July 2014 at Sub89, Reading

It’s quiet when I arrive at Sub89 tonight. I feel a bit sorry for opener Rage DC – Sub89 looks a big venue when theres hardly anyone in it and tiny when its full. As its the former I go right down the front to get a good view. Rage DC seem unphased and blast quickly through their set with a bit of banter with the local crowd thrown in for good measure. They’re quickly followed by Reading’s very own The Twin Dracula who I’d never heard of before let alone seen. Not an obvious name but they hit the spot right from the off. Thrashy numbers interspersed with a driving bass and drums set closer ‘Newtown Jazz Revival’ was the pick of the bunch for me. So good in fact I’ve later tracked it down and bought it on their Death Is Our Client CD EP. TTD are well worth investigating more.

When GBH hit the stage it’s still relatively early (gigs finish here on a Friday at 10pm sharp) but the venue now looks a lot more busy. Now pretty much my favourite release from GBH is Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne and the band launch into each song in turn until they’ve played the whole thing. Then it’s a romp through other highlights from a very long career. They’ve been an ever present force for over 30 years now. Sure they might have had a few quiet periods but they’ve never split up and even ‘new’ drummer Kai has over a decade under his belt. They put on a fine show, a real crowd pleasing set and I stumble out into the night air at the end a very happy man.

As a foot note I’d really recommend Ross Lomas’s biography “City Baby”. In time I’ll post up a full review but this a man and a musician with an actual story to tell rather than just a book full of “we played here, we got drunk, we had a fight” stories. Got a lot of respect for Ross after reading his story.

Watch GBH play Race Against Time live at Sub89, Reading

Watch The Twin Dracula play Occultimate Warrior live at Sub89

Ross Lomax from GBH

Jock from GBH

Coln from GBH

GBH punk band

The Twin Dracula

The Twin Dracula

On tour with the Samsung Galaxy S5

Last Saturday I got to try out the new Samsung Galaxy S5 courtesy of mobile network operator Three who laid on a street art tour of East London with established guides Alternative London. In just a few years mobile phone cameras have made the jump from fuzzy, blurry pics to real sharpshooters often beating many compact cameras along the way. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is right up there with the leaders of the pack and being so much more pocketable than my normal camera (a hefty digital SLR) I was curious to see if it would take decent enough pictures to consider leaving that lump of weight at home in future. As well as portability a mobile phone with a decent camera has security benefits too as it’s not obvious you’re carrying it until you take it out to use it. Anyway…let’s have a look at some photos from the day….

We started off in Bethnal Green and this little paste up immediately caught my eye – no idea who its by though – but the pencil barrel is a neat touch.

We set off heading West towards the City at a pretty leisurely place stopping to look at this chiselled face (in more ways than one) by Portugese artist Vhils:

Now the next piece may not be everybody’s cup of tea but I liked the fact that someone had been pedantic enough to correct the grammar of some existing graffiti by using pink spray paint to add an apostrophe and and E!

Going up a fair few notches in scale we were then led around a corner to see this huge work by Roa in his trademark style. So big in fact the only way to capture it all was to use the S5′s panorama mode. I’d met Roa on a previous trip to London but never quite got to see this particular piece of work so this was a real highlight of the tour for me.

Always my favourite detail in a Roa piece are the eyes, deceptively simple but so effective.

Easily missed, this piece by Dark Cloud was situated right next to much larger works.

This umbrella is such a simple idea utilising a bit of already existing pipework, no idea who its by though!

Heading towards Brick Lane the lamp posts are covered in stickers. This one by I Am Someart stood out nicely. Using the selective focus option on the S5′s camera threw the background out of focus nicely.

Nearby Dscreet (the owl) and Malarky appeared to have teamed up to create a joint work – with a nice little strap line at the bottom.

Another nearby paste up, again artist unknown

Wall of the day had to go to this truly collosal combination piece produced during the recent Meeting Of Styles graffiti jam.

Chu’s clever optical illusion piece which has to be viewed from a particular angle had been part painted out the the day after it went up but by the time we arrived it had been largely restored to its original format.

Nearby were a couple of stencil paste ups from .FRA:

From here we moved on to Sclater Street – a pretty essential stop on any street art tour with some large scale pieces.

Lovepusher who writes ‘Jesus’ in amazingly lit letters is one of my favourite artists so it was good to see this recent work untouched (at the base of this picture) unlike so much of his work in Leake Street.

Round the corner was a little bit more from .FRA

And a real survivor from My Dog Sighs

Overall impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S5 were that it did a great job in capturing the art. In fact it could have been put to better use by myself had I realised early on the impressive array of controls that are available in the settings menu of the camera. The ISO can be changed as can the picture size (up to 12M). There’s face detection, stabilisation, selective focus and burst modes as well HDR and timers. Video wise it will shoot full HD (1920 x 1080). Quite a capable device. The screen itself is crisp and bright, switching back to my existing iPhone 5 after using the S5 for a day seemed a real step backwards. Everything looks bigger and brighter on the S5. As for the network coverage from Three, it was faultless – I managed to post to instagram and Twitter throughout the tour without any problems. Regrettably the S5 has to go back but before it does I’ll add a couple of hi-res shots to the blog over the next couple of days so you can see it’s full potential. In the meantime check out shots from some of the other bloggers, tweeters who went on the tour as they post them up:

Hooked Blog UK Street Art

Marcus Maschwitz Photographer

Selena The Places Food, photography and smiles

The Usual Shutter Specs Photography news and views

With thanks to Becca and Three, Samsung, Alternative London and Farandrockaway.

THE STRANGLERS at Reading Sub89

THE STRANGLERS – Tuesday 8th July 2014, Reading Sub89

So last night I got to see The Stranglers. A bit late to the party admittedly – this is their Ruby Anniversary tour (40 years) but oddly I’ve been a fan since the 70′s but never really liked the direction they went from the age I started going to gigs. You know – stuff like Golden Brown and all that stuff. But I’d heard the guy who’s now doing what Hugh Cornwell used to do in singing and playing guitar is decent and that they were playing relatively small venues on the tour so I got myself a ticket for the Reading leg of the tour.

Sub89 is a decent venue. It’s got a capacity of a just few hundred meaning you’re not far from the band but it’s big enough to have a jolly decent PA and lighting rig too. Once settled into their set The Stranglers mentioned it was like playing in a front room and that sums it up nicely compared to other gigs they’ve played in the past. Perfect.

The Stranglers romped through a set list which was pretty damn near the one I would have chosen if I’d written it myself. I like to hear some more recent songs in amongst a heavy smattering of old classics – and there were plenty of those. “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy” does it every time. “Peaches’, their version of “Walk On By’ and ‘No More Heroes’ are stone cold standards and were all delivered in with amazing clarity. It’s interesting what you can take out of a band and still keep it’s essence. Drummer Jet Black is absent but the guy behind the kit delivered a very solid and punchy performance. What I would really miss is Jean Jacques Burnel’s bass lines and presence and Dave Greenfield’s unique keyboard playing but thankfully they are still very present. It just wouldn’t be The Stranglers without these two. In Baz Warne they have a great front man and guitarist who’s not trying to be Hugh Cornwell but fits in just fine. Excellent.

In a virtually straight through performance lasting for an hour and three quarters they pile through ‘Tank’, ‘Hanging Around’ and a host of others only interrupting the flow for JJB to hold up a sign showing that Germany were beating Brazil 5-0 – by half time! Elsewhere the crowd got the chance to vote to hear ‘Golden Brown’ or ‘La Folie’. A simple choice really and we got to hear the latter in full, in French for it’s entire six minutes. The crowd are really up for it tonight and songs like ’5 Minutes’ leave the floor literally jumping beneath my feet as people in front of me go just a little bit crazy with some energetic 40 something pogoing. Crowd surfing, crutches being waved in the air and the odd shower of beer show that this bunch of fans still want to enjoy it all just as they did many years ago. And yes, I did too. Absolutely bloody brilliant.

JJ Burnell

And for your enjoyment here’s my punters eye view of the aforementioned ’5 Minutes’

 

 

 

BLACK SABBATH / MOTORHEAD / FAITH NO MORE / SOUNDGARDEN – Hyde Park

BLACK SABBATH / MOTORHEAD / FAITH NO MORE / SOUNDGARDEN – Friday 4th July 2014 in Hyde Park

No pictures this time, well maybe a iphone shot from a distance….

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Motorhead, Lemmy’s well documented health problems meant the cancellation of my previous attempt so it was truly great to see him walk out on stage early afternoon and start to run through a through a series of proper classics. It seemed to me that things are not still quite back to normal though as a pretty short set included an extensive drum solo which acted as a tea break for the rest of the band. Whatever, it was just great to see Lemmy back on stage and hear Overkill once more.

Faith No More arrived on stage and pretty much subverted the entire metal genre with their stage set of brilliant white complete with matching outfits and flower displays. The rest of their presence though was pretty much as expected. All the hits belted out with real gusto with a couple of new songs thrown in to. Not that keen on the one that just had Patton screaming “Get the mothfucka on the phone”. A little bit too repetitive. FNM seem a bit of a marmite band but songs like Easy had the crowd singing along.

Soundgarden are one of those bands that some absolutely love. Personally I’ve never really invested iany time in them but had an open mind and was looking forward to hearing what I assumed would be a whistle stop tour of their best crowd pleasers. Instead they opted to play an entire albums tracks, all in order. For me this idea is fine if you know that’s what you’re going to get in advance but on this day it just seemed completely self indulgent. They’d apparently done the same set recently at a dedicated gig so it smacked a little of just trotting it all out again so they wouldn’t have to rehearse any other songs. Consequently there was a lot of filler and I won’t be investing any time in them in the future either!

I know a bit of Black Sabbath but its fair to say they weren’t the reason I was here. So I was in the burger queue when they arrived on stage. Just hearing them though I could tell they had real presence as they worked their way through War Pigs and quickly I established a decent vantage point for me and my son. I thought they were fantastic, true headliners. That’s not to say I’m going to go out and buy all their albums but favourite songs of mine like Paranoid sounded crystal clear and very, very heavy. Coupled with darkness, a full show of lights, backdrops and fireworks they really entertained and left us both going home very happy. Excellent, nice one Ozzy!

ENGLISH DOGS / BASTARD SQUAD / BULLETPROOF at the Pipeline

ENGLISH DOGS / BASTARD SQUAD / BULLETPROOF Saturday June 28th 2014 at the Pipeline, London

Back in ’88 I spent a few months in Melbourne, Australia having the time of my life not working and just hanging about, going to punk rock gigs and very little else. The country seemed full of great bands that I’d never heard of before, just about everyone I met was friendly and it’s a time I’ll remember as long as I have my marbles. Most of the bands I saw were heavily influenced by the American hardcore scene – more Jody Fosters Army than Joyce Mckinney Experience – but there were a few who were in touch with the British scene. The most obvious example for me was Bastard Squad, a Melbourne outfit with an obvious love of the UK82 sound typified by bands like Discharge and the Exploited. I got talking to their singer, Jason, at the Prince Of Wales Theatre and ended up seeing his band at a couple of shows and even went to their house destruction party (I kid ye not). Anyway, to cut an already too long story short I heard that they were playing their first show in London, not only that but it was with the version of the English Dogs that contains their original frontman Wakey and I knew this was one gig I couldn’t miss.

First band on tonight are Bulletproof, a band from Tasmania who are in the UK supporting Bastard Squad. They kick things off in style as the hall starts to fill up and are a perfect match for the other bands on show this evening. Playing fast, thrashy hardcore with what seemed like political lyrics they impressed. Shame so many missed them preferring to smoke outside - that’s their loss I guess.

I’d reintroduced myself to Jason from Bastard Squad earlier in the evening but hardly needed to. He remembered more from that time than I did, recalling how I’d copied the lyrics from the Blitzkreig Lest We Forget EP and sent them to him. I’d completely forgotten about that. It was great to catch up after 26 years and their set was all the more special for it. I’ve had their tape all these years and loved hearing songs like Jack The Ripper again live. They have a fuller, slightly more metally sound now but remain an unashamed straight down the line UK82 punk band. Feedback from the local crowd was great too, hopefully they’ll make a return visit some day – but make it sooner than a quarter of a century next time chaps!

English Dogs hit the stage next and got things off to a raucous start. Wakey is the only original member in the 2014 line up and this version of the band (there is another) only concentrate on the bands early releases on Clay and some more recent recordings. They detest the other metal English Dogs – a fact they make all too plain on the song Death To The Dogs. Just few songs into the set things come to a shuddering halt. A guy named Paul who had been throwing himself about quite a bit down the front is collapsed on the floor. One look at his foot explains why – it’s now on the wrong way round. Most likely dislocated and broken the band sensibly stop as he’s right in the way of everything and an ambulance is called. It was so good to see how many people came to his aid, not just that but that they knew what to do. Nobody in the venue was complaining about the band stopping, they knew it was serious but it was an exceptionally long time considering the venue was a stones throw from Liverpool Street station before an ambulance crew turned up. Helped out of the venue the Dogs returned to the stage with a promise to make up for lost time by crashing through anything remaining in their set that people shouted out for. They played an absolute blinder, super fast and tight with songs like Psycho Killer taking on a new sense of urgency. It all ended pretty suddenly but what a night. Three great bands and a chance to see an old friend. And get well soon Polish Paul.

Watch English Dogs play Psycho Killer live at the Pipeline

Watch Bastard Squad play Jack The Ripper live at the Pipeline

Watch Bulletproof play live at the Pipeline

  

 English Dogs

Wakey, English Dogs

Jason from Bastard Squad and the English Dogs

Jason from Bastard Squad

Bulletproof from Tasmania

HDQ / SOUTHPORT / MENSHEVIK / THIRTY SIX STRATEGIES at the Black Heart

HDQ / SOUTHPORT / MENSHEVIK / THIRTY SIX STRATEGIES – Saturday 17th May 2014 at the Black Heart, Camden

Years ago I had the pleasure of putting on HDQ at a couple of gigs (Wimbledon William Morris and the George Robey), even featured them in my fanzine Crisispoint and on an EP with three other bands of the time). So you can work out from that that I’m a bit of a fan. They reactivated recently but hadn’t got to play London yet so I was chuffed to see promoters Dry Heave sticking their neck out and offering them a gig down South in London.

Pre gig I met up with my old mate Neil Cox from Shutdown in the Worlds End pub in Camden to watch the mighty Arsenal win the FA cup. Simon from Southport was with Neil too. Simon is a fellow Gooner which essentially means his soundcheck went out of the window as the game went to extra time before history was made.

A solid support line up was on offer tonight with Thirty Six Strategies sneaking onto an already crowded bill. The recently formed outfit turned in a fine set of melodic hardcore not dissimilar to the likes of Dagnasty but with a female singer. It’s the third time I’ve seen the band and they’ve made big strides each time. They’ve become more assured and I really enjoyed them – especially really catchy songs like Crossfire. Still feel that there’s a brake on somewhere though which they need to lose before greatness beckons.

Menshevik are a lively bunch from the off. The singer is up on the monitors and gets the whole band going behind him. Really enjoyable outfit.

Southport’s recent Southern Soul album saw the band get a right result with the production. It’s pretty much perfection . Here though they are back to scratch with a band who have never met in real life playing a gig together without a rehearsal and yet somehow it works. You’d expect guitarist Simon Wells (ex Snuff) to be on the money having (I guess) written the songs but the other two must be true professionals to have learnt the songs and rocked up in front of an audience having not met each other before. Looking forward to seeing more of Southport in the near future.

Having just drummed solidly for Southport drummer Scruff stayed in his seat as he’s also behind the kit for HDQ. Only singer David Golledge and guitarist Dickie Hammond remain from the band I saw back in the eighties but they’re essential parts in recapturing their sound. With a mix of new material from their recently released Boss Tuneage LP “Lost In Translation” and a smattering of old classics they really impressed. The singer still jumps just like he used to do back in the day while Hammond still knocks out those angular triangles of riffs (I don’t know why but I see the notes he plays in the form of shapes as well as hearing them – it’s not a drug thing – just the way some people visualise music)! It’s brilliant to see them back on form. Can’t wait to see them again.

Watch Thirty Six Strategies play Crossfire live at the Black Heart

HDQ

HDQ, Camden Black Heart

Southport

Scruff on drum suties for Southport

Thirty Six Strategies

Menshevik

Whose Generation?

“I kind of think somethings over by the time you’ve read about it”. So says Tommy of the Stupids fame as he opens a new documentary about the whirlwind ride that was UK hardcore in the mid to late 80′s. It’s a telling quote applicable to so many scenes that start off life underground, rapidly gain an expanding and increasingly mainstream audience before burning out in the space of a few short years. It’s true of the spasms in punk rock that preceded it such as the leather and studs UK82 bands and the activist Anarcho punk movement and also of those that followed in its wake such as the colossal waves of grunge and melodic pop punk.

UK hardcore started off life as a truly underground scene and this short film captures that spirit well. In 23 minutes it tells a story of music sharing via C90 cassette trading long before Napster and Spotify made it all so easy. It reveals cheap international communication networks using reusable ‘soaped’ stamps years prior to broadband and social media coming into existence. An entire subculture of bands and venues existed without the involvement of the mainstream music press. It relied on word of mouth, flyers stuffed into letters, photocopied zines and a trust in a handful of record  labels to carry on putting out  bands that had a similar appeal. For a while it couldn’t be heard on the radio but all that changed when John Peel of Radio 1 championed many of the bands on his late night show. That brought new fans and even the music papers belatedly and grudgingly took note calling it Britcore for a while before claiming it had gone into a cul-de-sac and returning to ignoring it.

It’s only possible to give a feel of those times in such a short programme. Punk chronicler Ian Glasper gives an overview of life’s bleak outlook for many young people growing up in the eighties, music writer James Sherry explains how tape trading worked, Beddis from Cowboy Killers tells of scaring a very young Green Day with a Samurai sword on their first UK tour. Band wise the Stupids, Heresy, Extreme Noise Terror, Chaos UK, Ripcord amongst others all feature. You can argue that this band or that label should have been featured but c’mon, this is the first nationally aired documentary on this scene since the late eighties. Enjoy it for what is is – an amazing snapshot of an incredible analog music network.

Watch it here: Soap The Stamps

 

 

 

Now on Facebook – more punk rock pictures

So does anybody look at actual websites any more? Useful but too damned static and tedious to update. I’ve got a new Facebook page for all the punk rock pictures I take. Like it if you like. Here’s a few from recent gigs for starters, more over on Facebook.

Maid of Ace, Camden Unicorn – photo: Steve Cotton

Charlie Harper on his 70th Birthday tour – UK Subs, Sub 89, Reading - photo: Steve Cotton

Brains All Gone from Krakow  - photo: Steve Cotton

Captain Sensible – Happy 60th Captain - photo: Steve Cotton