Rodney Branigan @ The Bedwardine 22/02/13
Back in December, I was fortunate to have been mesmerized by Rod Branigan’s performance, culminating in his ‘duel guitar flip trick’, how could I not return for his Feb. date.
Once set up, he goes straight into ‘Body Language’, taken from his Sketches album, a very good bit of Americana/blues. A quick breath and an interpretation of Ian Moore’s Muddy Jesus, performed with an 8 string uke across his back, acoustic 6 string to the front and the little conga drum, ready to hand. That sort of hints at what to expect, combinations of ever present guitar, uke, conga, and a tambourine under his foot. Rod is not adversed to reworking good music to mix in with his self penned songs. A bit of rap from Kanye West, Outkast’s, ‘Hey ya’, and a truly outstanding demonstration of ‘slap’ and fingering his acoustic feeding in to Lennon’s ‘Come Together’, simply, superb. Rod stopped for a well earned break, but not before a twin guitar bit of schizophrenic musicianship.
‘Creep’, borrowed from Radiohead, is the excellent restart to the evening, we are all spellbound, by Rod’s skills, two brains maybe? and a liberal splash of banter and humour. Requests for guitar songs were invited, back came the shout, Black Sabbath, we’re almost launched full on into an acoustic ‘War Pigs’, but alas no, it looked promising, I think he should go for it.
There are the songs taken from Sketches, a mix of reworks and self written music, along with the more blues orientated set from his Nothing Better ToDo, album. Notables from these tracks are Muddy Waters, ‘Champagne and Reefer’, and his own ‘Buckets’, not about bailing out the floods, though ‘Stop The Rain’, written at Glastonbury, probably is. You can feel the rivulets of water running down your neck! An excellent acoustic version of Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’, far less explosive on the ears, was followed by a beer glass slide with tambourine accompaniment of Rod’s take on the Brady Bunch, which compares very favourably with the rather cheesy 1960′s opening theme from the TV series. A truly stunning evening at the Bedwardine, could only be complete with Rod doing his 2 guitar flip trick, as previously demonstrated in December. For those new to a Branigan gig, it is indeed awesome to behold, as ‘Slot Machine’ and ‘Clean Up’, from Sketches, are combined into a phenomenal display of guitar playing.
I can only say again, this man is unmissable, he returns once more on May 21st, for you to get another chance, this time he is bringing along fiddle player extraodinaire Tim Snider. I have already marked my place, I suggest you all mark your calender.
Words And Photos Graham Munn
Crows Christmas CAWker @ Watson Hall Tewkesbury Dec.21st
This was the annual gathering of our feathered friends, The Roving Crows, holding their Bacchanalia for the converted. A crowded hall of accolades were introduced to some new musical talents by Paul to open the evening.
First up for a clutch of songs was local 15 year old Caiara O’Neil, accompanied by her dad on guitar, Martin. Opening with Mary Black’s ‘Only A Woman’s Heart’, onto ‘Ceelo Green’s ‘Forget You’, and ending with, appropriately, ‘Perfect’ by Fairground Attraction. Caiara has an extraordinary voice for such tender years, will she be a name of the future?
Paul came back to the microphone to welcome Tewkesbury band Future Set to the stage, a 4 piece band of 2 guitars, double bass and cajon. They moved up the pace from gentle folk to an altogether rockier close with ‘Wild Eyed Ambition’.
The Crows arrival on stage was loudly greeted as they fired up into ‘President Garfield’s Night Out’. ‘When I Was Young’ and the delightful ‘Nancy Valentine’, set us on course for the glorious reel that is ‘White Petticoat’, Caitlin fiddling all into a dance frenzy for this maelstrom of musical magic. The atmosphere was conjured up by drummer Tim Tolhurst as the storming performance rolled into ‘The Weather’, the wonderfully paganistic views of dark clouds blown aside by the fantastical thrash of ‘Guns’. The Roving Crows, have rightfully, a devoted following, some of whom have gathered for this show in the gracious surroundings of Watson Hall, Tewkesbury. Caitlin, Paul, Greg, Tim and bassist Loz Shaw provide all with a memorable performance.
With Christmas upon us, what finer present could they offer us than The Pogues ‘Fairytale Of New York’, this has to be the finest piece of seasonal populist music created, accepting the sad demise of Kirsty MacColl it could not have been bettered, than here tonight.
The Roving Crows do not need to stray from there own fantastic library of songs, but following up from their happy go lucky ‘Long Time Dead’ with the lovely sounds blown up by Greg Wilson-Copp on his trumpet is the ‘stolen’ set closure. The fabulous ‘Devil Goes down to Georgia’, is made to measure for this band, and they play it with all the drive and enthusiasm this Charlie Daniels song deserves. This Bacchanalia has been an excellent way of reviving the soul ready for the spirit of Christmas to take over, a warm welcoming experience, that I can look forward to repeating in 2014.
Words & Photos By Graham Munn
Who would have thought it, a rammed to the rafters Marrs Bar on a Tuesday night all jumping on demand and hollering in unison, it could only mean one thing, the return of local ska legends Spunge!!!
It’s been awhile, far too long in fact (bar an un-announced 15 minute set a year or so ago) since Spunge graced Worcester with their blend of infectious ska pop punk, but to celebrate a newly recorded best of and twenty years in the business they’re back and sounding better than ever, but before I talk about conquering heroes there’s a couple of support acts to mention.
First to take to the floor were local post hardcore/rock n rollers, Fights And Fires, since the last time I caught the band they’ve been busy pounding Europe with their contagious racket and the constant touring really showed, the band delivered a tight and energetic set complete with wandering guitarist and a singer who spent more time in the audience than on stage. The crowd down the front showed their appreciation by bellowing along whilst the band delivered wave after wave of melodic hardcore including a glorious run through set highlight Chase The Blues. The only one criticism I can level at the band was the off microphone shouted introductions, do it once fine, but throughout the whole set, marred an otherwise impressive performance.
If you read my previous appraisal of the debut album by Hey You Guys! or indeed their album launch party gig, you’ll already know I’m something of a fan, well once again the band delivered a highly engaging, infectious set drawing from the aforementioned album, Gasp! Shock! Horror! and beyond, as the band showcased a couple of brand new tracks. Within seconds of the opening number, frontman Pete careered into the audience as the rest of the band laid down their brash punky foundation, from then on in there was no stopping them as they unleashed their fluid blend of spiky riffs, galloping drums and half spoken/half shouted vocals. Individual highlights are always hard to pick out but once again Difficult Second Album and the 3 Ronnies deserve a special mention.
What can I say about the main event, they delivered a fan favourite set (with a couple of newbies chucked in for good measure) of pogo inducing, fun fuelled, catchier than the common cold, ska influenced pop punk, inciting mass bounce and sing-a-longs. It’s impossible to argue with the likes of Jump On Demand, Ego, Kicking Pigeons, No Woman No Cry and Centrefold, it’s impossible not to be carried away by the groups energy, banter and delivery or the crowds bouyant enthusiasm. Spunge are one of those bands that weld a massive grin on your face right from the opening chord. You don’t go and see Spunge expecting indepth social commentary or mind blowing musicianship, you go expecting to have a good time and that’s exactly what they deliver.
A sweaty audience depart with a smile on their collective faces and a vocal hook or two that takes days to fully exorcise (actually as I write this Kicking Pigeons is still reverberating around my noggin). Let’s hope we don’t have to wait so long for Spunge to return.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 10
Skinny Lister @ Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
First visit to this well established music scene venue in Kings Heath, it will not be my last, I love the original Victorian Bar, tiled walls, and overall buzz this place exudes. Upstairs, things had already kicked off with support band with Mile Wide Stride, from Coventry and Nuneaton areas. They played a mix of rock and a little blues very effectively with a range of influences from Bowie to The Stones. Joined on stage by a saxophonist for a couple of songs, they are certainly worth looking out for in the future.
Next up Dirty Old Folkers, what can I say about this renowned bunch of Brummy’s. Folkish, with a huge sense of comedy, political satire, and plain filth! None of that’s a problem, they are an immensely entertaining band complete with their own dance troupe, a panda and death. ( this is one cloaked skeleton with some very nifty moves) Opening with a nod to our governing alliance, ‘Big Society’ makes a worthy comment on our brave new world. ‘Bonus’ bring a bit of bluegrass to liven up the poor bankers world. Fellow Brummy’s Sabbath decorate the background to ‘Lord of The Rings’ with War Pig, ably orchestrated by Stuart. Mike, Clive, Matt, Llias and Hannah, make up the band. A definite revisit in the future.
So, Skinny Lister, a party on stage,floor and street. If you want a forget it all, bloody good night out, get along to one of their gigs. This band is one of the hardest working on the festival circuit, guaranteed to raise a crowd from its alcoholic infused slumber into a dancing frenzy. New addition to Dan, Lorna, Max, Sam and Dan (d/bass) is Dave with full drum set. Their sea and folk songs are delivered with full on punk energy, flagon to hand, rum on tap. Forge & Flagon provides most of the songs, with a sprinkling from an impending new album to be released next spring. Mayhem takes over for jigs like ‘If The Gaff Don’t let Us Down’ and ‘Rollin’ Over’, as Lorna flirts with the whole room. Sam blasts out the rousing ‘John Kanaka’, inviting the responses as all join in. Colours, is a simply beautiful song, narrated by Lorna and Dan, Lorna shows the true quality of her voice in ‘Bonny Away’, a lovely lament. A momentary quiet before bursting into the manic ’40lb Wedding’. Interspersed with all that were new songs, a frenetic ‘War’ and ‘City’. Skinny gigs are not ones where you sit quietly in the corner, to enjoy the music accompanied by a pie and a pint. You go to be intoxicated with music that demands your attention, pulling you onto the floor of heaving bodies. Let your hair down and enjoy the ride, no-one can see you in the dark!
Words And Photos by Graham Munn
3 Daft Monkeys @ Gloucester Guild Hall 09/11
supported by The Leylines
Having seen this band at Lakefest back in the summer festival season, I knew this was going to be good. There was no disappointment, in fact it would be in my top 5 gigs of the year, and that list is quite long. I would not break down the top 5 as different genres, venues and crowds, all have a bearing.
First, the supporting band, The Leylines, a 5 piece band unashamedly heavily influenced by The Levellers. This band is shiny and new, but extremely well polished. You would not believe they had played 4 times and this was their first gig they were pretty damn good. The band consists of violinist Hannah, Drummer, and the 3 guitars of, Steve Fowell, lead vocals and acoustic., Matt Wilkins, lead acoustic, Pete Fealey, bass and James Dyer on drums. The band emanates from Weston Super Mare area, and play original music, but succumbed to their interpretation of ‘Fifteen Years’. This band is definitely one to watch, they have good stage presence and sound fine.
The 3 Daft Monkeys have been together in essence for 12 years, with 8 albums behind them. The latest being ‘Of Stones And Bones‘, released in October.
Their numbers are no longer 3, as an original member, Richie Mulryne, percussion, has rejoined Tim Ashton, 12 string acoustic, Athene Roberts, violin and Lukas Drinkwater on bass. Tim takes the lead in vocals.
So that’s the background, the performance is an intoxicating whirl of frenetic folk law. There is a gypsy like quality to the music, pebble dashed with tales of dark deeds, and mysterious legends anchored in their Cornish homeland. The band exploded into life with ‘Perfect Strangers’, ‘Civilised Debauchery’, and the wonderful ‘Agnes The Giant Killer’, taken from the new album. The attending troupe of acolytes were here for a party and it didn’t take long before the barrel burst into life. Tales were plucked from their collection of releases, Antiqued And Arcane, Social Vertigo, Huobadilla providing a maelstrom of musical mayhem. ‘Days Of The Dance’, from A&A starts with Athene and Lukas waltzing around as her bow caresses the strings of the violin, Tim retells of a deadly dancing disease, before all hell breaks loose and the room goes mad with jumping whirring revellers. The whole floor was literally heaving, I could not hold a camera steady, instantly infectious, a plague of fleas would not induce such a reaction. I must mention Richie and his wonderful ‘compact drum set, played almost throughout, by hand percussive strikes, with all the enthusiasm of a Keith Moon. ‘Social Vertigo’ momentarily closed the set, but there was no way the band could have escaped the building, ‘Houbadillia’ recharged the engines and away the floor bounced, finally ending on ‘Antiquated And The Arcane’ led by Athene on vocals.
The whole performance absolute magic, by the time you read this the tour may have slipped out of reach, I can only implore you to look for future dates and I am sure next years festivals will see their return; brilliant entertaining band, making memorable music. I highly recommend OfStones And Bones and the previous release Antiquated And The Arcane.
Words And Photos By Graham Munn
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