Tag Archives: live music

From The Jam at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 15/6/17

For those who tend to overlook the White Rock Theatre for offering little more than a constant diet of musicals, panto and the sort of saccharine golden oldies shows your nan would go to see, tonight demonstrates why they offer more than that. Tonight the brash excitement and explosive anthems of The Jam came to town. The band may have split forever in 1982 and Paul Weller may not have shown much interest in revisiting his Jam-era back catalogue in his solo career. However, for the past decade bass-player Bruce Foxton along with guitarist/vocalist Russell Hastings have been touring as From The Jam.

The whole evening has a distinct flavour of the late 70s mod revival to it. Fellow Mod travellers, Secret Affair, are the support act. While no-one can really pretend they wrote the most epoch-defining songs of the era their soul-infused pop-rock is well received and the energy levels really go up when they end the set with their hit ‘My World’ along with a spirited cover of ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor.’

With From The Jam, however, the energy levels are palpable as soon as Foxton, Hastings and co. take the stage. The classics come fast and furious: ‘In The City’, ‘The Modern World’, ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’, ‘That’s Entertainment’ and, of course, ‘Going Underground’. In both looks and vocal delivery, Russell Hastings is not a million miles away from Paul Weller. It’s very much not, however, one of those weird tribute shows where band members start play-acting the roles of former personnel. Hastings has a charisma and stage presence in his own right. Foxton is as awesome a bass-player as ever and contributes occasional lead vocals as well, just as he did back in the days of The Jam. With superb drums and keyboards they are a tight and impressive foursome on stage. They certainly know how to work the crowd.

“We are, we are, we are the Mods” chanted the audience for what seemed like forever after the band left the White Rock stage to deafening applause. After perhaps the longest break I’d ever recorded between a band leaving the stage and returning for an encore, the guys are back with ‘A Town Called Malice’, ‘Saturday’s Kids’ and ‘Eton Rifles’. It’s a brilliant end to the evening.

A superb and much-cherished band, Bruce Foxton can be enormously proud of the part he played in The Jam. No-one can blame him for wanting to celebrate the band’s legacy in this way and the audience reaction from the absolutely packed-out White Rock shows there is still much love out there for the band’s music. So there should be.

https://www.fromthejamofficial.com/

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Slam Cartel at The Carlisle, Hastings 25/3/17

This review has also been published on the Get Ready to Rock website here

“It’s quite overwhelming having all these people singing these songs back at us,” lead singer, Gary Moffat, tells the audience at the Carlisle at one point during tonight’s gig. Clearly, the Kent-based hard rock outfit, Slam Cartel, have something of a following in Hastings and they have made regular appearances at the Carlisle in recent years. However, regardless of how many times gigs you perform, it’s not every lesser-known band producing wholly original material that is rewarded with impromptu crowd sing-alongs throughout the night. It just goes to emphasise the sheer quality of this band’s song-writing. Or, as one of their enthusiastic supporters told me afterwards, “What I like about these lads is that they really know how to write a good chorus.”

With a hard n heavy yet infectiously melodic approach, a charismatic and energetic front-man in Gary Moffat and, as mentioned, a superb set of songs, Slam Cartel are thoroughly deserving of the response they got tonight.

Combining the irresistible hook-lines of 80s metal with the down-at-heel honesty of grunge and the attachment to melody that every great classic rock band has always aspired to, Slam Cartel have created a distinctive sound and a musical identity for themselves that they carry off with self-confidence.

Songs from the band’s début album Handful Of Dreams (released prior to Moffat joining the band) dominate the set-list. Given it contains great catchy rock songs like Powerstorm, Wishing Eye and Once In A Lifetime, it would make no sense at all for the band to turn their back on these, particularly as Moffat has absolutely made them his own in terms of delivery. Songs from two more recently-recorded singles, however, also make it into the set including the superb Vanishing Worlds.

With the reception they got in the Carlisle, once again, I’m sure it won’t be too long before Hastings is treated to another energetic night with Slam Cartel. In the meantime, there’s also a new album to look forward to, currently being recorded and due out later this year.

Radio-friendly, melodic hard rock that is fresh and contemporary, yet at the same time gets you singing along like you’ve known the stuff for years, it’s immediately apparent why gig-goers in Hastings have taken this band to heart. Let’s hope the rest of the rock world soon follows suite.

Setlist:

Powerstorm
Mismatched Ties
Worldstarlove
Free Again
Vanishing Worlds
Goldenstream
Strike No. 1
Wildflower
Hold Me
Hypnotised
Wishing Eye
Handful of Dreams
Storm Seasoned
Sundown
Breathe
Once In A Lifetime

http://www.slamcartel.com/

17521957_10155191598023573_877491994_oPhoto credit: Sue Stevens

Review: Giants Of Rock Weekend 2017, Minehead

Giants Of Rock took place at Butlins Minehead again this January for the the fourth year running. Apart from the first year (when I was already booked into another Butlins music weekend the week before) I’ve been each time. With three days of music, two main stages and a smaller ‘introducing’ stage there is always plenty to choose from but here are the performances that particularly captured my imagination this year.

Friday

Eschewing both main stages for the first start of the Friday evening programme, we opted instead for The Troy Redfern Band on the introducing stage. I’d seen Troy and co a couple of times before so it was less of an introduction and more of welcome re-acquaintance with the band’s high-octane brand of blues rock. It’s good to see the band go down well.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://troyredfern.com/

After Troy we moved to one of the main stages for a gloriously bonkers set by Dutch flute-playing, Hammond-pounding, yodelling prog-rockers, Focus, which gave all of us in the crowd the chance to let ourselves go wild to a suitably deranged version of Hocus Pocus.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.focustheband.com/

Former Gillan guitar legend, Bernie Tormé, is on next and delivers a blistering set as always. Consistently original, the self-styled glam punk shredmeister has been enjoying a real career renaissance of late with two very well-received solo albums and a third on the way. With drummer, Ian Harris, and bass-player, Chris Heilmann, these three make a classic power trio which is the perfect showcase for Torme’s  guitar wizardry. Not only are the Minehead crowd treated to a great selection of some of the more recent material we also get some Gillan-era classics, too, like No Easy Way and New Orleans and a stonking Smoke On The Water as an encore (the first but not the last time we would be hearing that particular song over the weekend). It was a fantastic end to the first night.

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Photo credit: Lisa Valder

http://www.bernietorme.co.uk/

Saturday

Live Dead 69 are a reincarnation of The Grateful Dead with original keyboard player, Tom Constanten, currently touring the UK performing the band’s classic Live/Dead album in full. The Grateful Dead are not a band I’m hugely familiar with, although I’ve long been aware of the epic jams which the band are renowned for. A brilliant bunch of musicians, I was finding the initial part of their set perhaps a little too jazzy for my tastes. But then more of a blues rock vibe kicked in and I found myself more and more drawn in. Certainly, I’m pleased to have tasted a little of what this legendary band were all about.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.tomconstanten.com/

To kick things off on the Saturday night, Bernie Marsden was an obvious choice for me. I’ve seen him solo several times before (plus, of course, I saw him with the classic Whitesnake line-up back in the day) but this is a completely solo set – just Bernie and an acoustic guitar. He completely holds the audience for the full hour: some solo blues material, some Peter Green material and, of course, some Whitesnake material, the latter turning into a beautifully intimate communal sing-along to the likes of Ain’t Gonna Cry No More and Here I Go Again. Superb.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.berniemarsden.co.uk/

With a quick change of venue we were ready for Ian Paice with Purpendicular. OK, Giants of Rock is not supposed to be about tribute bands but here you’ve got the legendary Deep Purple drummer himself, together with a cracking bunch of musicians. They absolutely nail the Mark 2-era Deep Purple sound, from the chugging bass lines, to the majestic Hammond organ, to the blinding guitar solos, to the Gillan-esque screams.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://purpendicular.eu/

To round off Saturday we had a non-stop run-through of Saxon classics by Oliver Dawson Saxon. Original Saxon members, Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson, have been touring their alternative version of the Barnsley NWOBHM heroes for twenty years now and, impressed as I am with Biff Byford’s continuing version of the original Saxon, Oliver and Dawson do also offer something brilliantly entertaining. Lead singer, Bri Shaughnessy is a powerful vocalist and a charismatic front-man in his own right and he has absolutely made what might have been a difficult role his own. And as you can never really have too many crowd sing-alongs to classics like Denim And Leather, 747 (Strangers In The Night) and Wheels Of Steel, the fact that there is not just one but two bands out on the road doing this is a bonus in my view.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.oliverdawsonsaxon.co.uk/odsroot/

Sunday

In spite of a love 60s R&B bands, I’d never actually managed to see The Pretty Things live until now or even listened to one of their albums in full. But front-man Phil May and guitarist Dick Taylor still cut it live after more than half a century together. The two original members are joined by second guitarist/harmonica player, Frank Holland, who has been playing with them since the late eighties, together with a fantastically energetic young rhythm section in Jack Greenwood and George Woosey. Obviously, a band that’s been around since 1963 is going to have a hefty back catalogue to choose from and, while I enjoyed the whole set, I found they had more to offer when they concentrated on their mid 60s R&B period rather than their later stoner rock phase. Fortunately, the former makes up a significant part of the set and anyone who is currently enjoying the Rolling Stones new back-to-basics Blue & Lonesome album and wants an authentic slice of 60s rhythm and blues should certainly try and get to see The Pretty Things live.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.theprettythings.com/

Still in the mood for more music after The Pretty Things, we headed off to the introducing stage and arrived just in time to see an awesome performance from the band KilliT. Great vocals. Great musicianship. Great guitar solos. Great stage presence. And, importantly, great songs, too. Instantly memorable numbers like Calm Before The Storm and Shut It Down from their debut album meant that this classic-sounding heavy metal band could wow the audience with some classic-sounding heavy metal songs. The best new hard rock band I’ve heard in ages, I was genuinely delighted for them when they were officially voted top act on the introducing stage that day. That means they will be back at Giants Of Rock to perform on the main stage next year. KilliT are a new band that have clearly arrived fully formed and deserve to go far.

killit-mineheadPhoto credit: Sally Newhouse

http://www.killitband.com/

That pretty much wraps up a brilliant weekend of music for me. There were more bands on the Sunday evening and for head-liners that night punters had a choice between Steve Hackett doing Genesis or Ian Anderson doing Jethro Tull. I looked in on both but it was all getting a bit proggy for me and I just didn’t seem to have my prog head on. Reflecting on what a great range of performances I’d witnessed over the weekend, I was happy to call it a night.

A great bunch of bands. A great crowd. A great weekend. Here’s to Giants Of Rock 2018.

1985: Twenty of us in a cellar bar in Blackpool with Steve Marriott

Iconic musicians of the 60s and early 70s are rightly celebrated now. But the mid 80s could be a harsh climate for many such icons. And although the end of the 60s was only 15 years previously it genuinely felt like a different world musically back then.

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I’d got into Marriott’s former bands, Small Faces and Humble Pie, via a compilation tape that had a track from each on. It led me to pick up compilation LPs of each band’s Immediate output and I was genuinely thrilled to see that the former guitarist/lead singer of both bands would be performing at the Bier Keller in Blackpool where I had recently moved. This would be 18-year old Darren’s third trip to the Bier Keller. The first I’d gathered a group of flatmates, friends and hangers-on to come and see Brian Connolly’s version of The Sweet. But that ended in disappointment and drunkenness when Connolly never showed up. The second time was for Tony’s McPhee’s Groundhogs, where I’d managed to persuade a flatmate to come along but he left after about three songs. The third time I was on my own.

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I got there and there were no more than around half a dozen audience members and three band members. Marriott was deep in conversation in the tiny backstage area but I got chatting to bass player Jim Leverton who was hanging by the door. I fired off the titles of several of my favourites from the Immediate compilations and waited, expectantly, for Leverton’s response. “Nah, we don’t play any of those any more. But if you enjoy the blues you’ll enjoy this.”

I really wasn’t sure what to expect at this stage. The place was still almost completely empty although the crowd had grown to about 15-20. But Marriott and his two Packet of Three colleagues came on stage and launched into an explosive set: ‘Watcha Gonna Do About It”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Tin Soldier”, “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” Many of these would be on Marriott’s Live At Dingwalls album that my dad bought for me soon after when I enthused to him about the gig.

It was incredible to see him giving it his all to no more than 20 people. It wasn’t a particularly long set but afterwards he sat at the bar while very single member of the audience queued in line to buy him a brandy, get something signed and have a chat.

I’ve still got the faded 31 year-old scrap of paper Steve Marriott, Jim Leverton and drummer Fallon Williams signed for me.

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I didn’t get to see Marriott again until I moved to London five years later and saw him at the Half Moon in Putney. Knowing the band gigged regularly on the London circuit I was looking forward to seeing quite a bit more of him. But sadly, only a few months later came the news of the tragic house fire that took his life. At least I got to see the great Steve Marriott live.

http://www.thesmallfaces.com/

Book review: ‘Hastings Old Town Music Scene’ by Sean O’Shea

Having been resident in Hastings only some six months or so my perceptions of the town’s lively, thriving music scene are still those of the enthusiastic newcomer. I can’t pretend to know the scene inside out and back to front like many of the people Sean O’Shea interviews in this 140-page book, but that helped make it a fascinating read for me.

For a smallish town of 90,000 Hastings has an unparalleled live music scene, particularly in the old town which this book focuses on: dozens of pubs and bars putting on live music, a healthy mix of larger venues, too, and numerous events and festivals. And for a long long time the town has exerted an almost gravity-like pull as a place for musicians of all types to set up home here and play here. But my perception is that unless you are familiar with the town, either as a resident or frequent visitor, all of this is pretty much under the radar. I think this is probably because, although it’s long had a very healthy live music scene and is teeming with musicians, it’s not given birth to a really big name band that comes to define the place musically and put it on the musical map. Andover forever has The Troggs, Guildford – the Stranglers, Wolverhampton – Slade. Yet Hastings just seems to have dozens and dozens and dozens of very talented musicians, but not necessarily ones who are household names. This book, therefore, is not filled with interviews of mega-successful rock icons reflecting on their long-past musical roots, but rather is a series of interviews with musicians who live and perform in the town today. A few of those interviewed were born here and reflect on a Hastings childhood and teenager-dom. But most have been drawn here at some point by the pull of the town’s music and arts scene, many it appears via south-east London – a journey I, too, have made.

It’s packed with stories and reflections and covers interviews with musicians from a wide range of genres: folk, jazz, rock, blues, classical and more. Some like Lorna Heptinstall of the internationally acclaimed Skinny Lister or Liam Genockey of the iconic folk rockers Steeleye Span, both of whom ended up in Hastings, have profile and reputations that stretch far beyond Hastings. But others, like the four women who make up the a capella harmony vocal group, Rattlebag, renowned for their folk sing-arounds in the Stag Inn, are little known outside Sussex. But their passion for and insight into the Hastings music scene makes for a genuinely enjoyable read.

Whether you’re a music-loving resident familiar with scene or a curious visitor who wants to find out more, ‘Hastings Old Town Music Scene’ is well worth a read. At the back there’s a list of old town music venues as well as a calendar of the key musical events, festivals and fairs that Hastings has built up a considerable reputation for.

Published 2016 by Hastings Press

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