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
Hazel O’Connor is one of those few artists I never tire from performing live, whether she’s treading the boards as part of a stripped down acoustic trio (with harp and Irish drum) or amped up as part of a raucous five-piece (as she was here in Bilston) she always delivers a passionate and full-bodied show complete with fist-pumping, sing-a-long anthems and heart wrenching ballads.
But before I continue waxing lyrical over Hazel, I must digress and speak of the highly commendable support act, Tinderbox, a three-piece acoustic band featuring two guitarists delicately interweaving complimenting the gorgeous vocal tones of Monique Houraghan. The band (originally a two-piece) have been performing for 16 years and in that time they’ve taken numerous venues and festivals (home and abroad) as well as releasing four acclaimed albums, courting plaudits from the likes of R2 magazine and Tom Robinson of 6Music fame.
On the nights performance, it was easy to understand how Tinderbox have gained such recognition, their set was a delight from start to finish with breezy finger plucked folky guitar providing the perfect backdrop to Monique’s honeyed vocal style, from the opening number, Waiting For The Summer the trio draw the listener in. The set ran through a number of moods from traveling lament of Homeward Bound to the driving politics of State Of Play via the playful 40′s jazz inspired romance of Valentino. The band captivated the audience throughout their short set with deft instrumentation, warming hook-laden songs and beaming smiles, with the band’s final number, the stunning acapella led River To The Sea deservingly receiving raptious applause.
Now onto the main event, Hazel O’Connor, as I alluded to earlier I’ve seen Hazel on numerous occasions and each time she’s been delivering her material in a different set up, I’ve seen her perform acoustic, electric with a violin, as well at Rhythm festival a couple years back with a fiery five-piece. Here at the Robin, Hazel was ably backed by a rousing five-piece including recent regular collaborators, Claire Hirst and Sarah Fisher (sax and keyboards). The band were put together to promote Hazel’s most well known work Breaking Glass, her most recent album I Give You My Sunshine and her just released autobiography, Breaking Glass Barefoot.
The band opened their set with the marching Give Me An Inch and right from the off, Hazel was on fine form gesticulating wildly whilst delivering her passionate punky lament, whilst the band behind blew up a storm, keyboards pounding sax and guitar dueling and the rhythm section pumping instantly inciting a frenzied approval from the assembled crowd. From there on Hazel had the audience eating from her hand as she delivered long term favourites from the frantic Monsters In Disguise to the more refrained and soulful If Only.
With Hazel O’Connor it’s hard to pick out individual highlights as every track delivered hits a home run, but as always the likes of the mass sing-a-long Big Brother, the strutting Decadent Days and the timeless stirring ballad Will You (complete with mesmeric instrumental break and sax solo) always strike a chord with me, but I also have to mention the stripped down vocal/keyboard and sax rendition of Chasing Cars and a stirring performance of The Stranglers Hanging Around.
In my opinion Hazel can do no wrong, she always delivers, always engages and always entertains in whatever setting she chooses, if you’re yet to see her perform live, I suggest you rectify that in the near future as you’re missing a top night out.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 10
Photos By Graham Munn
Norman Watt-Roy Should need no introduction to you music fans out there, you should know him as the bass player of the Blockheads or the various sessions with the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Clash, Nick Lowe, Wilko Johnson and Nick Cave to name but a few, he’s one of the funkiest bass-players alive and this year has seen the release of his debut solo album, Faith & Devotion.
I suppose to put it in the most simplistic terms the man is a living legend of music and so when a live performance was announced here in my home town, you can only begin to imagine my intrigue and excitement.
Having not heard the solo album I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I heard whispers of jazz and funk with a bit of that old Blockheads wit. Well sure enough we got all that and much, much more, we were in truth served up a masterclass of musicality, a lesson in elastic bass and a lecture in delicious groove. Norman with the help of saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and band create a stunning, fluid blend of jazz and funk, whether it’s on album tracks such as the tender, My Foolish Heart, or the inspired life story monologue of Me, My Bass And I or Blockhead classics such Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, the band fizzle with energy and excuberance whilst the audience lapped up every lick.
Jazzy loose beats combine with saxophones flourishes and that deep elastic bass forming an incredible soundtrack to Norman’s musings, but if that wasn’t already enough to bring down the house, guitarist, pub rock legend and bravest man in rock today, Wilko Johnson joined the band for a handful of songs, adding the trademark machine gun style guitar riff and warm, welcoming vocals to a glorious Roxette, performing with a massive grin, despite his well publicized battle with terminal cancer, enjoying every minute on stage and even managing a typical Wilko strut across the boards to raptious applause.
I’ve been lucky to have seen my fair share of memorable performances here in Worcester, from the likes of Peter Green to John Cale via the likes of an acoustic Levellers, but I have a feeling I’ll be talking about Norman Watt-Roy & friends for a longtime to come, a simply incredible night and a mesmeric set featuring two genuine larger than life giants of music, if you missed this one shame on you.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 10