GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Glow dvd coverDespite my longstanding interest in professional wrestling and frequent investigations into its history the 1980s organisation GLOW had largely passed me by. Now, with the Netflix original drama based on the series having emerged, I thought I’d take a look back at its real life inspiration in the documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

At only 73 minutes the film is somewhat superficial and has something of the feel of a Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends show, but without the leading investigator/presenter to ground it.

What we get instead are a series of fairly rapidly cut, loosely threaded, talking heads accompanied by archive footage of the original show alongside current footage of a few of the performers in their everyday lives.

Through this though a few interesting stories come to light, even if they aren’t fully explored.

First is how the show was put together, which somehow explains why it is often not included in the wider pro-wrestling canon.

The GLOW girls

‘The GLOW girls’ and their ring announcer

Rather than relying on already established female wrestling talent (who, while few and far between did exist) of the mid-80s the conspicuously male production and creative team relied on an open casting call to bring in young models and actresses to fill their roster of performers.

While some had an interest or natural aptitude for the wrestling, many didn’t and the product was more of a variety ‘real-life cartoon’ than a wrestling show. While WWE (then WWF) was certainly veering in the cartoony direction around the same time, GLOW turned this up to 11.

In this segment we hear from the man tasked with training the performers, Mondo Guerrero (of the legendary Mexican/Texan wrestling family; brother of Eddie and Chavo, son of Gory) who seems to express a level of disbelief at the job his was given.

GLOW girls - Moretti on the right

GLOW girls – Moretti on the right

We also hear from Tina Ferrari who would become Ivory in WWF in the late 90s (real name Lisa Moretti) who was one of the few who seemed to get the wrestling and she becomes an invaluable addition to the documentary as the story rolls on given her experience from the smallest to biggest shows in the industry.

While the film seems to choose to focus more on the sisterhood of the performers than anything else this is far from entirely coherent, but, as we find out more about the promotions two biggest (in both senses) stars, it does coalesce somewhat.

Matilda The Hun was an older and seemingly more experienced wrestler when the show began in something of the mould of British wrestling legend Klondyke Kate.

While we see here in her prime we also see her now, partially wheel chair bound due to back injuries, though she clearly remains very much the same woman she always has been, bedecked in full ring attire and make up and not regretting anything of her years in the ring.

GLOW - Mountain Fiji

Mountain Fiji

Somewhat more tragic is the story of Mountain Fiji, Matilda’s rival and GLOW’s top hero. A 350lb American-Samoan shot-putter in her heyday, she has since succumbed to injuries and diabetes leaving her permanently wheel chair bound.

Like her arch nemesis she doesn’t seem to regret the damage wrestling may have done to her body, but she also seems far more abandoned by her past life.

So, when Little Egypt organises a reunion at the encouragement of the film’s producers, Mountain Fiji is something of the guest of honour and the reaction of both her and the other ladies as she enters and they all perform the ‘rap’ that introduced them on the original show is genuinely moving.

While generally somewhat rushed GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is still interesting enough and as insight into women’s wrestling as WWE looks to distance itself from its seedier version of GLOW with the ‘Women’s Revolution’ and this summer’s Mae Young Classic tournament has a newly added dimension the producers couldn’t have known about when it was released back in 2012.

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Mura Masa – Self-titled

Mura Masa album coverWhen I first encountered the person that has become Mura Masa (aka Alex Crossan) he was the shy and retiring lead guitarist for deathcore band So Cold The River at one of the Rock of Ages events at Guernsey’s Carlton Hotel.

Since then things have changed slightly from a few demos made in his bedroom which first came to my attention in early 2013 to a Soundcloud mixtape that gained international indie distribution on vinyl under the name Soundtrack To A Death to signing to Polydor Records, setting up his own imprint (Anchor Point Records), selling out tours of the US, Europe and Japan and now the release of his self-titled debut album.

The album opens with a funky scene setter, Messy Love that throws together many of the aspects to be developed as the record goes on.

Along with rhythmically satisfying dance beats that combine classic funk and disco with more current electronic sounds, Mura Masa’s lyrics provide an interesting take on fairly well trodden formula for young musicians dealing with angsty, post-teen life in a refreshingly direct way.

Mura Masa

Mura Masa

From there the first half of the album heads into more hip hop inflected territory and the first batch of collaborators make their appearance. Regular performance partner and label mate Bonzai is first of these on the rantingly intense Nuggets followed by A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX and Desiigner.

While all their tracks have their own spin on the style Mura Masa’s writing and production style threads them all together. While Love$ick (a reworking of earlier track Lovesick Fuck) and 1 Night are both single style numbers, All Around The World provides the album’s most intense moments before another track, almost an interlude, without collaborators, provides something of a transitionary moment that feels very much like an intentional ‘end of side one’.

The second half of the album then heads into more ambient territory with the alt.pop feel coming further to the fore (though 1 Night lands in that area too) and once again gets going with a track featuring Bonzai that is one of the record’s highlights.

With Nao, Christine & The Queens, Jamie Lidell and more it’s fair to say the record is an impressive who’s who of current alt.pop but it is Mura Masa’s music and production that makes the album a whole. At first I thought it might sound a bit like another mixtape but it does coalesce into a collection of complete songs with an obvious through line to become a full product in itself.

Mura Masa and Bonzai - David Cabrera - 305.772.7543

Mura Masa and Bonzai (David Cabrera)

Nothing Else, featuring the aforementioned Lidell, brings an extra bit of soul to the record before it all comes to a conclusion on the magnificently genre defying Blu.

This has an extra surreal quality given the presence of Damon Albarn (frontman of Blur and founder of Gorillaz) who, for music fans of my vintage, has been one of the top names in pop for the best part of three decades.

All of this comes together to make for a very impressive debut that sets out Mura Masa’s place as a defier of convention and creator of a vein of alt.pop that borrows from many places to create something his own that can connect on several levels to wider audience than one might at first think (it even got me moving as I listened).

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Hattie Briggs, Buff Hudd and Gregory Harrison (and a little Pirating at the Castle) – The Fermain Tavern – 14/07/17

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

Every summer Castle Cornet, the medieval castle that stands at the entrance of Guernsey’s harbour, is thrown open on Friday evenings for the Castle Nights events featuring a selection of live music in different areas of the fortification. Before heading up to The Fermain Tavern this evening, I went to the castle to catch The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

Its been a while since I’ve seen The Space Pirates and they’ve had a bit of a shake up in that time with fiddle player Jess Nash moving into a more part-time capacity (though she did sing a couple of songs tonight) and Nick Dodd joining to add some subtle electric guitar to the mix. Despite this, the general feel of the band’s high energy, fun, rock infused folk remains unchanged and was on fine display.

While the older more well-known songs had a large number of the audience singing along and were the backbone of the set three new songs were included. While the first got a bit lost thanks to sounding like it would need a big sound with lots of harmonies and the likes to be totally effective, the other two continue the band’s style perfectly.

Nick Dodd and Tim Corbett of The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

Nick Dodd and Tim Corbett

One, written by mandolin and guitar player Tim Corbett brought a slight country and indie tone while Guppy’s, SS Briseis, was a rabble rousing drinking song, suitable given its subject famously sank with a load of Algerian wine off the island’s coast.

Despite the line up change the band, if anything, felt more focussed and tighter than some past performances and Nick’s guitar added a nice country twang and a slightly different dynamic in places. A few technical issues didn’t seem to faze them and they left the crowd, packed into the castle’s middle ward, calling for more.

You can see a few more of my photos of their set here

After their set I made a swift move up to The Fermain Tavern where a new visitor to the island was playing, alongside a couple of more familiar faces.

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison started the night off in solo mode, without either longtime bass player Nathan or recently added drummer Peter. This provided an interesting contrast to his more recent outings and shone more of a light on his guitar playing and his deeply lovelorn lyrics.

While his performances used to sometimes feel a little mannered it seems his time back in a full band (now he’s in The Recks) has made him more relaxed on stage, giving a new honesty and openness to his songs adding a real passion to his performance along with his deep and rich vocals.

Also flying totally solo tonight was Buffalo Huddleston frontman Buff Hudd. With that in mind he had chosen to expand his sound with a stomp box at one foot and tambourine at the other, along with his didgeridoo and guitar.

Buff Hudd

Buff Hudd

With the audience more focussed and quiet than at many of his gigs (this couldn’t be much more different from his recent outing in The Peace Tent for example) he chose to add an even more intricate side to his playing, or maybe it just came across as more, really showing off his unique skills.

I Don’t Care What You Think About Me added a nice light-hearted touch mid set while Mono-Limb-Tastic did its usual job of wowing the crowd with its ‘one-handed’ style making for a stand out performance for Buff Hudd.

While she had never visited the island before and, as such only drew a small audience, it was clear that Hattie Briggs came highly recommended as a number arriving commented that friends and family in the UK had sung her praises to them.

As soon as she began her performance (backed for a majority of the set by Gregory Harrison on guitar and violin) it was clear why.

Hattie’s songs have a slightly melancholy feel spanning the area between pop, folk and the singer-songwriter movement, with tales of lost love and love never found, amongst other subjects.

Hattie Briggs

Hattie Briggs

What really stood out though was her voice. While there are many good female voices of a similar style doing the rounds something about Briggs went beyond that, leading to more than one to comment that, if we hadn’t known better, she could have almost sounded like a very well record CD. This captivated the audience in a way rarely seen at the Tav, bringing almost all to a focussed silence.

While, for me, it did get a little musically same-y as the set went on that is a personal taste criticism and I seemed to be alone in this feeling.

A couple of well-chosen versions of songs previously done by Eva Cassidy later in the set brought the performance to a rousing close before the audience called Briggs back (in a slightly subdued way) for a final rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah that had most of the room singing along and ended the night on a definite high and I would hope if Hattie makes a return to the island more venture out to hear her as I know a large number of people would enjoy her music and missed out.

You can see my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Ministry – Psalm 69 (The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs)

Ministry - Psalm 69 album cover25 years ago industrial metal band Ministry unleashed what is arguably their magnum opus launching them into the hard rock mainstream and making them one of the cornerstones of the sounds that were to become a large part of heavy metal in the mid to late 90s.

While still credited as the duo of founder Al Jourgensen and longtime collaborator Paul Barker, Psalm 69 (aka ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ) saw Ministry develop on the sounds of The Land of Rape And Honey and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste with Mike Scaccia’s electric guitars coming to the fore over their previously established bed of harsh synths and distorted vocals and samples.

This is demonstrated from the off with NWO, an abrasive statement of intent that sets the scene for the first half of the album.

Along with the developed industrial metal sound the song’s subject matter is something that has been a mainstay of Ministry’s music before and since as it openly attacks the American foreign policy (in this case the Gulf War and George H. W. Bush) and hints ideas of conspiracy theories, a formula that saw the band reach their second peak in the early 2000s during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Ministry - Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker - 1992

Jourgensen and Barker in 1992

Just One Fix, a partial collaboration with Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs, as the title suggests, deals with another of Ministry’s long-standing preoccupations, extreme drug use.

There are many stories about the band’s drug consumption during the production of this record (with one Jourgensen himself saying they were spending in excess of $1,000 a day of the record companies money on the pass time) and its strongly reflected here.

The combination of militaristic rhythms and distorted, swirling vocals and samples hurls the listens down a dark and twisted rabbit hole like little else, and that if we believe Jourgensen, is a first hand account of what was going on in his and the rest of the band’s heads at the time.

TV II and Hero continue the sociopolitical themes before the album’s highlight arrives in the form of a demented slice of Americana, Jesus Built My Hotrod.

With a near gibberish vocal performance from Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes, it has a quality that is oddly revelatory in an entirely inexplicable way with slide guitars added to the mix creating an undisputed heavy metal floor filler that has become something of a deranged classic.

Ministry - Jesus Built My Hotrod - Gibby Haynes

Haynes in the video for Jesus Built My Hotrod

After this Scarecrow slows things down from the manic first half of the record and begins a descent into a kind of apocalyptic reverie that is highlighted by the (sort of) title track that combines the intensity of the first half with the later heaviness in the best of ways.

The record is then rounded off by Corrosion and Grace that pull things into a kind of hellishly enjoyable black hole of noise.

While Psalm 69 is a highly enjoyable album purely on its own merits (especially when played at extreme volume), hence its place in music history as a defiantly underground album that crossed over into mainstream consciousness, its place in the history of heavy music is one that, 25 years on, marks it out as a classic.

In many ways it defines the mainstream industrial metal genre which was developed, in various directions, by contemporaries Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and more with only NIN ever reaching a similar level of intensity and power (the others were unashamedly more pop).

Ministry live 1992

Ministry on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour

On top of this it sits alongside the work of Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down and their ilk in reintroducing a truly subversive streak into the heavy metal mainstream following the self-absorption of 80s glam and the nihilism or internal depression of grunge.

This all comes together to make Psalm 69 an album that set the scene for a lot of the music that was to follow, even reaching as far as nu-metal (for its sins), and marking Ministry, who have had a patchy career before and since, as one of the most influential metal bands of the past three decades here if nowhere else.

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Blue Mountains – Hummingbird EP

Blue Mountains - HummingbirdAt the recent Sark Folk Festival Guernsey based folk band Blue Mountains release the follow-up to their Refusing To Die album, the four track EP Hummingbird.

Recorded at Stretchy Studios in Guernsey the EP marks a development for the band expanding to a four piece from their original duo line up and being made up predominantly of original songs rather than the traditional material heard on their debut.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 15th July 2017.

Blue Mountains - Hummingbird review scan - 15/07/17

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Against Me! – New Wave

Against Me - New Wave album cover10 years ago as I write this Floridian punk rockers Against Me! released an album that was, for better or worse, to become a landmark one in their career, New Wave.

Following something of a falling out with indie label Fat Wreck Chords over their Searching For A Former Clarity record the band signed a deal with a major label, Sire, for their fourth (and then fifth) albums.

This instantly set them apart not only from the anarcho-punk scene they originally came from (though to many there even Fat Wreck had been too big a move) but also from their fans who had followed the band’s first three albums to whom a major label was seen as a hugely controversial move.

The whys and wherefores of all of this (from at least one perspective) are covered in Laura Jane Grace’s autobiography, Tranny, so here I’m going to focus more on the record itself.

From the moment it begins its clear that New Wave has a bigger production side to it, and with Butch Vig behind the desk that’s not a surprise. What it does though right away is hint at the difference between the outlook of the band and the plans of the Sire executives.

Against Me! circa 2007

Against Me! circa 2007

While the band, led by chief songwriter Grace (then known as Thomas Gabel), kept at least a semblance of their sociopolitical outlook, they had added to that an embittered streak focussing on the aforementioned punk ideals, the notion of ‘selling out’ and the criticisms they had gained from longstanding fans, there’s a strong sense that what Sire were looking for was the next generation of Foo Fighters.

While this gives the whole record something of a conflicted edge the dangerous side of the music gets lost in the deeper production, stifling what could have been a very impressive set of songs highlighting the ever-present clash between art and commerce. Title track New Wave, Up The Cuts and the supremely catchy Stop! particularly vocalise this, but it is a theme bubbling under throughout.

Politics remains a strong aspect of the lyrics, possibly in a slightly more abstract sense than in the past, but White People For Peace and Americans Abroad both have political overtones with the first dealing with war and protest singers and the second feeling like a very aware look at global Americanisation from the point of view of the band on tour.

Against Me! live 2007

Against Me! live in 2007

What all this suggests is that there are some good songs on the record and, in many ways it does continue where Searching… had left off two years previously, with the band developing a slightly poppier and more accessible tone while still having plenty to say, it’s just this came across far better with a slightly less ‘over produced’ sound.

That said a couple of tracks really stand out. The first is Thrash Unreal, the album’s second single, that takes the kind of topics often dealt with in teen pop punk but throws them askance issuing something of a warning of increasingly youthful excess but finally standing up as a celebration of teenage rebellion (with a very dark edge).

The other stand out track is the albums closer, The Ocean, that uses the advanced production for all its worth to create a deep and atmospheric piece that delves deeper than ever before into the Grace’s psyche and feelings in a way that has since become something of a premonition for not just the future of the band but her personal life as well (loosely anyway).

Thomas Gabel/Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! in 2007

Gabel/Grace live in 2007

This all leaves New Wave as something of a transitional record in Against Me!’s career, lacking some of the danger of the past and hinting at a possible more ‘corporate rock’ future that never really emerged (thankfully).

The follow-up, White Crosses, while also featuring some great songs also felt somewhat disconnected and eventually almost led to the collapse of the band before their next landmark moment on Transgender Dysphoria Blues that saw them take many aspects of what they were before but become something new and certainly become about as far removed from being the next Foo Fighters as a band could get while still playing pop-tinged punk rock.

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Guernsey Gigs Acoustic Night #2 – The Fermain Tavern – 06/07/17

The Gregory Harrison Trio at The Fermain Tavern

The Gregory Harrison Trio

With the Sark Folk Festival a recent memory for some, Guernsey Gigs took the chance to stage their second acoustic night at The Fermain Tavern as a kind of wind down event featuring a few of the artists who had played the festival the prior weekend.

Guernsey folk scene stalwart Phil Capper was first up and did exactly what has made his formidable reputation over the years, playing a set of songs mixing his own material with versions of traditional folk and ‘folk revival’ songs.

Something of what I would see as a classic ‘folk club’ style performer Phil may not always be the most precise of players but he tells the stories of the songs excellently through both his vocals and his guitar playing and he finds the spirit in the songs he chooses with an impressive voice and musicality.

Phil Capper at The Fermain Tavern

Phil Capper

For me he’s at his best in the more energetic songs and his final number, I Will Go, was one of these and got the small but attentive audience singing along to the rousing chorus.

Working for both the Guernsey Museum and Guernsey Language Commission, James Dumbelton has taken the opportunity to learn as much as he can about the island’s own folk music and shared some of that with us here.

Armed with two sets of pipes, a mandolin and a fiddle (not all at once) he took the audience on a journey through some of the historical music of Cornwall and Normandy that may have given some identity to Guernsey’s own music and played a few Guernsey French songs as well.

I don’t really remember hearing Guernésiais sung before and it was great as I’m very accustomed to hearing it spoken and, even if his accent seemed a little soft compared to what I’m used to, it opened up the language in a new way.

James Dumbelton at The Fermain Tavern

James Dumbelton

Along with that he highlighted the links between Norman and Norsemen with his music and was energetic and engaging in a way I’ve not often seen from a solo folk music performer – getting the audience to sing along in Guernsey French was a particularly impressive moment.

Gregory Harrison has been playing for several years around Guernsey (and before that further afield as well) and in that time added bass player Nathan to his line up. Now he’s added a drummer, front man of Burning At Both Ends and WaterColour Matchbox amongst other things, Peter Mitchell, to complete a three-piece band, imaginatively going by the name The Gregory Harrison Trio.

While Greg’s music has always been enjoyable away from the bands he’s in, the addition of a more complete backing band, including backing vocals, does give something of the feel closer to his recordings giving many of the songs a new vitality and depth, and allows Greg a little more space to perform – something he’s shown he’s more than capable of with The Recks.

Gregory Harrison Trio at The Fermain Tavern

Gregory Harrison Trio

In that regard this set felt far more relaxed (though according to the singer this wasn’t so much the case at their debut in Sark) leading to a couple of highlights in an otherwise very strong outing.

Low was particularly epic with a depth and power that just kept growing while their last song grew into something huge that had the audience clapping along before they were called back for an encore of the lead single from Greg’s self-titled EP, Demons, that topped it all to close the night on a high.

With a promise of more acoustic nights in the future, along with other shows, Guernsey Gigs are trying to expand things in the island’s music scene in a way not seen in a few years and, on the strength of this and past shows, they are starting out strong.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Baby Driver

Baby Driver posterFrom the moment Edgar Wright’s latest film Baby Driver begins with a full volume blast of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as we focus on Ansel Elgort’s ‘Baby’ sat in a high-powered car waiting for a heist to take place while rocking out to the sounds of his iPod it’s clear this isn’t going to be a normal crime thriller.

What this instantly sets up is something that has become a hallmark of Wright’s work, just taken to a new level, of combining two somewhat improbable genres at once. So, following the romcom/horror of Shaun Of The Dead, the teen movie/comic book movie of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World we get a musical comedy crime thriller.

A fairly simple plot device sets this up and is very well handled through the tale of Baby’s involvement with a criminal gang and his attempt to remove himself from this life.

While the part of Baby is fairly stoic Elgort brings a great presence and depth to his role and, as he in virtually every shot of the film, delivers a very impressive performance.

Ansel Elgort as Baby in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort as Baby

Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx meanwhile all look to be having a great time letting their villainous sides out and pitching it with a great deal of humour but really turning up the threat when needed (Foxx and Hamm switch to a scary level of intensity very impressively).

Like Wright’s other work though the director’s style really is the co-star as the camera flies and spins around to create some of the best driving sequences I’ve seen in along that never lose the point of the story or get lost in cgi and puts the increasingly overblown Fast & Furious movies to shame with its structural simplicity.

Along with this of course Wright adds a matching level of camera movement and action to the most mundane of tasks like making breakfast or buying coffee, making the whole film move seamlessly regardless of what’s going on and even the romantic sub-plot doesn’t feel forced.

Kevin Spacey and the gang in Baby Driver

Kevin Spacey and the gang

What all this does is create a film that takes Wright away from the ‘Cornetto trilogy’ much of his reputation is based on, and show he is more than capable of translating his style into a more action centric movie Hollywood prefers without losing the thing that makes his films what they are, leaving us with one of the most entertaining films I remember in sometime with a soundtrack to rival any in recent memory.

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British Summer Time with Green Day – Hyde Park – 01/07/17

Green Day at BST Hyde Park

Green Day at BST Hyde Park

The last time I went to a huge outdoor event it was Reading Festival when Arcade Fire played a blinder, Blink 182 were sadly mediocre and Guns ’N’ Roses did their best to ruin their legacy forever, so heading to British Summer Time in Hyde Park it felt like going to an entirely new kind of show for me, a pronounced lover of smaller, more intimate gigs rather than huge concerts.

The line up though certainly had a lot that appealed to from vintage punk rock to a couple of my favourite bands and some interesting diversions besides so all was looking well as Stiff Little Fingers took to the enormous Great Oak Stage.

Despite being somewhat dwarfed by their surroundings and only having 30 minutes to play with the veteran Northern Ireland four-piece blasted through a set of powerful and positive, surprisingly poppy, classic punk rock.

Stiff Little Fingers at BST Hyde Park

Stiff Little Fingers

Having a self-admitted reputation as a dour, political band they more than dispelled this as, while songs like Tin Soldiers, Suspect Device and set closing classic (and highlight) Alternative Ulster have an obvious point to make they do it in the most upbeat way possible.

While being on first meant the crowd weren’t totally in dancing mood the band played a great set that was just the opposite of Buzzcocks when I saw them a couple of years ago which is where I had been worried this might head and Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae was a surprise skank along belter.

The vintage punk continued with The Damned but they upped the ante in terms of putting on a show, once Captain Sensible had done his own soundcheck and had a bit of friendly ‘banter’ with the crowd – I’m assuming shouting ‘Fuck off Sensible’ and getting the V’s in return is a thing… if not it all seemed good-natured fun anyway.

The Damned at BST Hyde Park

The Damned

As most of the bands did The Damned delivered a greatest hits set par excellence, pulling in all the big songs you could want spanning their 70s and 80s heyday from the likes of Neat Neat Neat, to Love Song, to Eloise to Video Nasty.

While the Captain had something of the fool character on stage (not to discredit his spot on guitar playing), Dave Vanian was a perfect counterpoint stalking the stage looking like a cross between Bela Lugosi and Lux Interior with a deep American twang to a vintage rock ’n’ roll voice over the goth tinged punk.

This juxtaposition between Vanian and Sensible was something I’d had trouble getting my head around on record but seeing them live it all came into place leading to another set that defied the age of the performers and made possibly my highlight of the day.

The Hives at BST Hyde Park

The Hives

With some very nice looking vintage amplifiers being rolled onto the stage it was time for The Hives to bring the rock ’n’ roll and they did with their usual tight, precise, high energy aplomb.

Of course the focus of the performance was Howlin’ Pele Almvqvist who, for the forty minutes they had, never stood still for a second ranging from side to side of the huge stage and as far down the dividing barricade into the crowd as his mic lead would allow, delivering every rock ’n’ roll frontman pose you can think of.

While his performance could come across as too mannered and arrogant in some hands, Almvqvist packs it with enough good nature and fun to make sure that never happens and the frequent quips about them being a European band winking at Brexit just added to this.

The rest of the band were as tight as you could want with Nicholaus Arson (Almqvist’s brother) taking his share of centre stage and showing that the infectious energy obviously runs in the family.

While the set was packed with their well-known songs like Die, All Right!, Walk Idiot Walk and Main Offender, taking ten minutes at its conclusion to deliver the usually two and bit minute Tick Tick Boom did feel a little much, but it was still enjoyable and the trick of introducing the crowd as well as the band was a nice twist on a usual conceit.

The Living End at BST Hyde Park

The Living End

Even though Gogol Bordello looked and sounded like they played a stormer I found it hard to properly listen to their set as I made my way over to the smaller Barclaycard Stage at the far end of the park to catch Australia punkabillys, The Living End.

As with all the other bands with short sets they blasted through a greatest hits style set in a way that had the feel of huge fun party.

With many in the crowd clearly being die-hard fans and singing every word of the likes of Roll On, Prisoner of Society and West End Riot back at Chris, Scott and Andy it had a feel of a smaller club gig in the environs of this huge outdoor arena and that made it something of a special set and, while only six songs long, was up there with The Damned for most memorable moments of the day.

With a little more time to play with than the other bands Rancid’s set had the feel of more of a proper show and they didn’t waste any time in delivering crowd pleasers aplenty.

Rancid at BST Hyde Park

Rancid

While it was clear that most of the crowd were here for the headliners these fellow Bay Area punks took the chance to make their mark and win over many new fans as they played material ranging from the hardcore Dead Bodies (from their eponymous 2000 album) to ska heavy Where I’m Going (from new album Trouble Maker) and of course the hits like Time Bomb, Fall Back Down and set closer Ruby Soho.

Through all of this Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen remain the perfect complementing front duo (a little like Sensible/Vanian earlier but in a totally different way) and with seemingly every song dedicated to someone it brought to fore the community aspect that makes punk rock like this the special thing that is and they even got a couple of pits going despite the generally family demographic in the audience.

While Green Day’s crew were changing the stage around for the stadium rock show to come I headed off to the march stand and, on the tiny stage hidden away behind the main stage, caught a few songs from Beach Slang. While I didn’t hear much, their powerful and exuberant indie-punk certainly impressed me and I’ll be investigating them further.

Green Day at BST Hyde Park

Green Day

With the stage reset with a new walkway out into the crowd and extra lights and drum riser in place Green Day blasted into their two and three-quarter hour epic set with Know Your Enemy.

This was followed by an opening section drawing on new album Revolution Radio and American Idiot much to the delight of the younger end of their fan base (and its safe to say the new songs sounded great live with more energy than on the record).

From there things switched back to their more classic 1990s material ranging from 2000 Light Years Away from 1991 to a rousing rendition of 2000’s Minority.

The third section went into a mix of big songs from the mid-90s and American Idiot before the traditional duo of King For A Day and Shout that contained an extended breakdown section featuring a genuinely uplifting moment of Billy Joe Armstrong stating: “No racism, no sexism, no homophobia and no Donald Trump!”.

Green Day at BST Hyde Park

Green Day and friends playing Knowledge

While its fair to say Green Day are a band who have evolved from the kind of pop punk band they were into stadium rock giants I found, they have kept something of a sense of self echoing, in a way, the community sense demonstrated rather differently by Rancid.

While I’ll admit Armstrong’s reliance on getting the crowd to sing ‘Hey-yo’ back to him was a little tiresome as the set went on, involving the audience on stage was a great touch.

On three songs audience members were invited up to perform with the band and this really helped take what could have been a distancing ‘performance’ and make it something more (though I had to feel sorry for the first young lady taken on stage to play guitar on Operation Ivy’s Knowledge as she had something of a rabbit in the headlights look once she realised what was happening and seemed to forget what a guitar was, let alone how to play it).

On top of this Armstrong’s message moments, ranging from a suitable amount of Trump bashing (most obviously a “Fuck you Donald Trump” during American Idiot) to talks of positivity, equality and inclusion really felt like something important to say, especially for the younger members of the audience, and never felt heavy-handed, even if I prefer Rancid’s more subtle method of doing this through their song-stories.

Green Day by Jordan Curtis Hughes

Green Day by Jordan Curtis Hughes

Closing the set on Revolution Radio’s Forever Now the crowd were clearly wanting more and a few songs remained notably absent so we got an encore of American Idiot and an epic rendition of Jesus of Suburbia that had the crowd singing along in great voice, before a second encore from Bille Joe and his acoustic guitar of three tracks culminating in Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).

This left the audience satisfied and heading out onto the streets of London following what was, for me, one of the best fully complete rock shows I’ve ever seen with everything from huge singalongs to flaming pyro to a genuine sense of togetherness that really blew me away in a manner I was totally unprepared for.

All photos by me unless otherwise noted (final photo of Green Day from the BST Hyde Park Facebook page) – you can see all my photos by clicking here

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Chaos Voodoo 13 – 23-25/06/17

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

For the thirteenth year the Greenman MCC and friends took over a few fields at Pleinmont in Guernsey for their annual party weekend – Chaos!

This year with the subtitle Voodoo 13 the festival featured two stages of live music for three days featuring everything from the lightest of folk to the heaviest of rock along with the bike show and whatever other shenanigans might happen when you put a few hundred bikers and music lovers in a field.

My review of the event was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1 July 2017 and you can read that, and an extended version, below.

You can also see my galleries of the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Chaos 13 review - part 1 - 01/07/17

Chaos 13 review - part 2 - 01/07/17

Extended review

It might be unlucky for some but for Greenman MCC and the rest of the crew behind Chaos it turned out to be one of their best weekends of bikes, beer and, what we’re focussing on here, bands, yet.

Day 1

Silas The Assyrian Assassin at Chaos 13

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

As has become customary the weekend started out in The Peace Tent with Silas The Assyrian Assassin first up on Friday afternoon. Delivering one of his more coherent sets to the small but appreciative audience it was nice to hear the intentional humour along with the more pointed opinions in his songs more clearly than sometimes.

Highlights came in the form of a ‘cockney’ reworking of Dandy Warhols’ Bohemian Like You along with a series of topical original songs generally bemoaning the state of the world in his uniquely witty way.

Fly Casual frontman, Damo, followed Silas with a slightly more straightforward, but none-the-less enjoyable, set of acoustic indie, including some songs from his long time band which are always nice to hear.

The main stage got going with one of the islands up and coming younger bands, Rogue. While they seemed to have a few sound issues they didn’t let that slow them down and their mix of rock covers including the likes of Skid Row, Guns ’N’ Roses, System of a Down and Muse were a nice warm up for the evening.

Blacksmith at Chaos 13

Blacksmith

Having debuted last year, power metal trio Blacksmith upped the ante adding costumes to the mix in helping to tell their tale of the heroic ‘smith saving a princess from an evil dragon. While it may all sound a bit ridiculous the band wear it lightly and with a fun manner, and delivered their chuggy riffs brilliantly.

The first visiting band of the weekend were Jersey quintet Short Was Found. Having made their Guernsey debut at Chaos last year they came with something of a built-in following and it was clear why

Their energetic, hardcore tinged, punk rock was as fast, punchy and powerful as you could want and frontman James Pallot was a force of nature on stage.

The addition of second guitar has filled out their sound in the right way and it was nice to hear some upbeat punk rock as most of Guernsey’s harder punk bands are being a bit quiet.

Having already played the JT Market Rocks event to Chris Tarrant and friends (yes, really) earlier in the evening Honest Crooks hit the stage for a headlining set in The Peace Tent with a purpose and it wasn’t long before the crowd was packed in and skanking away.

Honest Crooks at Chaos 13

Honest Crooks

The chance to play a longer set really showed off their repertoire from great originals to well-chosen covers spanning everything from The Specials to Reel Big Fish to, somewhat bizarrely, Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl.

Whatever they were playing though the audience were loving it and they put in an early bid for highlight of the weekend.

West Country rockers That Band took things in a different direction on the main stage with some sub-Red Hot Chilli Peppers style funk rock. While all four members played and performed very well and were perfectly listenable their set didn’t really ignite the crowd the way funky rhythms should making for a set that, while well-played, couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a dud.

SugarSlam at Chaos 13

SugarSlam

SugarSlam have become main stage regulars at Chaos over the last few years and never fail to deliver, and Chaos 13 was no exception.

Having been in the studio over the last few months they took the chance to air a lot of new material and the upbeat power pop grunge continued where they left off with their Fameless album and quickly got the crowd excited.

Rounding off the set with a pair of covers, Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, left what was a loose but fun set on a high.

Having given the event its theme and following appearances on TV hailing them as one of the UK’s best undiscovered bands, there was a real sense of anticipation for the excellently named Johnny Cage & the Voodoogroove.

Johnny Cage and the Voodoogroove at Chaos 13

Johnny Cage and the Voodoogroove

Their genre defying brand of dirty rock ’n’ roll certainly came with a good groove.

The band brought an excellent character and vibe to a slick and tight performance that kept the crowd at the front, and in the case of two more ‘enthusiastic’ ladies on the stage with them, dancing. This brought the first night Chaos to a close on a high point and set the bar for the bands to follow.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the first day

Day Two

Track Not Found at Chaos 13

Track Not Found

Following a performance at the previous night’s Sound Guernsey show for under-18s, Track Not Found continued their three gigs in three days weekend by opening up the main stage on Saturday lunchtime.

The young three-piece have built a good reputation over the last year and continued to build on that here.

While it took them a little while to build the energy up and they were a little looser than normal, by about half way through the set, around the time guitarist Grace Tayler broke a string, they hit their stride and didn’t let the missing string slow things down to get the day going in fine fashion.

When it comes to energy you can always rely on Jawbone and this was no exception.

The set started a little on the back foot as Dom from Static Alice filled in for the bands regular frontman Steve as he raced to the site on his lunch break. As soon as he did appear though the band were all systems go with their scrappy, sloppy take on punk rock.

Jawbone at Chaos 13

Jawbone

While covers of the likes of Misfits, The Damned, Alkaline Trio and Men At Work (yes really!) have been their standards, their set of originals is growing and while Choice was a little too sloppy here Generation Y more than made up for it with its NoFX-like take on a bleak, nihilistic but still singalong sound.

While The Crowman is something of a regular in The Peace Tent, this year saw him arrive with his recently formed Crowband in tow, as heard on his new album, and they did a great job of building on The Crowman’s signature garage folk sound.

The whole set had a playful and relaxed feel though the more melancholy songs still cut through and made their point and Pimbo (with the aid of a megaphone) was one of Chaos’ most surreal moments in a while (and that’s saying something in The Peace Tent).

The fun folky vibes continued with Clameur De Haro and they quickly had The Peace Tent packed for a relaxed performance mixing their great songs with some well-chosen hard rocking covers that got people singing and clapping along.

WaterColour Matchbox at Chaos 13

WaterColour Matchbox

While it was a folky afternoon in the smaller field the main stage continued rocking with WaterColour Matchbox delivering a tight and slick set of their progressive, conceptual rock with the metallic edge dialled up for this show.

While their songs aren’t music to chill out to even on a relaxed Saturday afternoon they went down well and in the setting of the big Chaos stage they sounded suitably huge.

Having made a strong impression on their first visit to the island a couple of months ago Great North were one of the weekend’s most anticipated acts in The Peace Tent and they didn’t disappoint.

With the tent crowd at its most subdued the husband and wife duo’s voices became the focus of attention and were instantly absorbing.

Great North and Gregory Harrison at Chaos 13

Great North and Gregory Harrison

While the songs were often on the darker or more serious side Hayden Donnell brought a lighter side with a quick wit between the songs that provided the perfect balance and a few songs with Gregory Harrison on banjo just added to all this.

After the bike show and a set from The Phantom Cosmonaut (that I won’t review for obvious reasons) Brunt brought the heavy to The Peace Tent.

A band who built their reputation in this space a few years ago, the tent was busy for their return and really got into the slow and crushing grooves which flowed from the stacks of amplifiers on the stage and, while it was clear they have a dedicated following at the front, they made an impression on all gathered out of the fog.

The Recks at Chaos 13

The Recks

After a year away The Recks returned to Chaos in their spiritual setting here of The Peace Tent and hit the stage in front of a packed audience.

While it took them a few songs to get warmed up and there seemed to be some technical issues with Greg’s banjo (no jokes about banjos please), they worked through this expertly and were soon back and rolling in fine form with everyone swaying and grooving to a selection of songs ranging from new numbers recently added to their set to older ones not heard from the band since their reformation.

Heave are a band who have become the stuff of legend.

For a brief period a couple of years ago the duo delivered a series of crushingly heavy and loud sets before promptly disbanding, apparently never to be heard again.

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

So, as soon as their name appeared on the line up for Chaos 13, they became the most anticipated band of the weekend and as soon as Neil Ettasse hit his drums and Steve Lynch’s Explorer guit-bass and wall of amps roared into life the old power was back.

With seven songs in 45 minutes it was a thick, crushing, obscenely loud racket in the best of ways that quickly got the first proper pit of the weekend going.

Steve and Neil were as tight as ever, as if they’d never been apart, and with the likes of Swamp Monster Is Loose, Smoking Molasses and epic closer Tomahawk they did what PUNiK did last year of becoming not just a highlight of the weekend but a highlight of all Chaos.

Following the onslaught of Heave was going to be no mean feat and its a bit of a shame for Graveyard Johnnys that the crowd seemed to go through a brief period of recovery while they started their set.

Graveyard Johnnys at Chaos 13

Graveyard Johnnys

Thankfully the punkabilly trio are clearly an experienced crew and soon got the crowd on side leading to another pit kicking off, in fact one of the biggest I’ve seen at Chaos in quite some time.

Frontman and upright bass player Joe Grogan played with a great charisma that whipped the audience in the frenzy while Callum Houston was a non-stop dynamo pulling punk and rock ’n’ roll licks from his blonde Telecaster in fine fashion and Tom Lord looked like something from a post apocalyptic movie behind his rolling drums.

Graveyard Johnnys provided another highpoint of the weekend and ended on a killer cover of Golden Earing’s Radar Love to close out a great day spanning everything from the lightest folk to the heaviest of rock.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the second day

Day Three

As something of a change to past Chaos events the Sunday afternoon of the festival was given over to a Battle of the Bands on the main stage in conjunction with Sound Guernsey, showcasing eight of the island’s young bands.

Lysergic at Chaos 13

Lysergic

While there are things to say about all the bands who took part there are a few things that apply to all of them. That is that they are all amazing talented given their ages and experience and, while the performances aren’t the level of the big bands of the last two days they all showed at least hints of some great performers to come as they develop and get more gigs under their belts.

Lysergic opened the day and were totally new to me. The first half of their set had an edgy and slightly psychedelic nature to it (appropriate given their name, was that intentional?) with covers of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer and The Rolling Stones Paint It Black before the singer and the guitarist swapped roles and things went in a grungier direction.

This second vocalist brought a crazed energy that was great to see in a scene where the younger bands can often be a little on the polite side and I was almost surprised he didn’t end the set by throwing himself through the drum kit a la Kurt Cobain in his prime.

Vice at Chaos 13

Vice

One thing that has really stood out with the current crop of young bands in Guernsey is the number of female performers and Vice are a prime example of this. The all-girl five-piece sounded great on the slightly heavier, darker numbers from the likes of Highly Suspect and, while they could do with a bit more grit to back it up (something that comes with time), they put on a great show with their singer particularly standing out with a charismatic and confident turn.

Another female fronted band were The Violet Diversion and it wasn’t long before their singer, Kiya, was following in her uncle Stace Blondel’s footsteps and heading out on the speakers across the front of the stage, getting face to face with the crowd.

While Kiya led the charge the rest of the band were solid as well and, while their selection of songs didn’t give them the coherent image of their leader they put on a great show.

The Violet Diversion at Chaos 13

The Violet Diversion

The last band before the break are one with a little more experience, Equilibrium. While their energy was a bit up and down today they still put in a good showing and when they did hit their stride they made a great pop rock sound.

After a brief trip to The Peace Tent for a little self-described ‘smutty’ folk from A Day Before Thursday, Acoustic Accord kicked off the second half of the Battle of the Bands with a cover of Buffalo Huddleston’s Sky High. The band followed this with well-played piano and acoustic guitar covers of a range of songs, backed up with a violin and drums. While they were a little reserved for my tastes but undeniably talented musicians.

Another band who, despite their appearance, have been playing for a year or more are Cosmic Fish. It having been a while since I last saw them they’d noticeably come on again and, while still a bit loose in places, have added more power to their pop punk sound that is coming together into something very enjoyable.

Blue Mountains at Chaos 13

Blue Mountains

At this point I’ll apologise to Track Not Found for missing their third show in three days but The Peace Tent called for a toastie and Blue Mountains.

With their new EP, Hummingbird, unofficially released here (the official launch will be at Sark Folk Festival) the trio mixed their set up a bit but did exactly what we’ve come to expect; delivering a series of darkly hued folk songs based on styles of Americana with their own flavour increasingly creeping in making them one of the islands truly special bands to see and hear.

Back at the Battle Rogue were back on stage and looking far more confident than they did on Friday afternoon. While they still have some rough edges to smooth out their set was far more assured with drummer Luke Corbin and singer Carmen Stella Tippet particularly impressing – and it’s always nice to hear Skid Row’s Youth Gone Wild.

Buff Hudd and Jull-z at Chaos 13

Buff Hudd and Jull-z

With all the bands having performed the judging panel (made up of a selection of members of the stage crew and organisers) made their deliberations and announced Vice as very worthy winners with Track Not Found an honourable second, but, as with pretty much all battle of the band’s style events, all the bands were winners getting seen by a bigger audience and getting an experience they are unlikely to get for a while (or at least another year if they get invited back to Chaos in the future).

With ‘silly games’ taking place in the main field in the way they only do at Chaos the music continued in The Peace Tent with Buff Hudd. It’s hard to think of a more perfect act for this setting and Mike Meinke delivered on that as people chilled out in the tent, some singing and grooving along. Once again the Japanese version of his song Don’t Worry Yourself was a very impressive highlight along with the slightly mind-bending instrumental Mono-limb-tastic.

Ukuladeez at Chaos 13

Ukuladeez

The folky vibes continued in somewhat more surreal form next as Ukuladeez hit the stage and seemed intent on playing a game of how many people can we fit on The Peace Tent stage at once.

Within that though they delivered probably the best set I’ve ever seen from them combining their sense of fun with some great catchy songs packed with genuine humour.

With the expanded band including not just bass and drums as we’ve heard before but violin, pipes from James Dumbarton melodica and, for one track, the Folkatron 3000 (its hard to explain) from Peace Tent’s terrestrial leader Stretchy Stuff along with a choir of the Ladeez’ mums it made for a highlight set of the weekend in The Peace Tent in the most improbable of ways.

Burning At Both Ends at Chaos 13

Burning At Both Ends

Back in the main tent Burning At Both Ends kicked off the final evening session with a set of their storming style of pop punk.

With the Sound Guernsey faithful at the front and singing along the band gave it their all and this set in particular really showed frontman Peter Mitchell coming into his own in the role.

Catchy new songs stood alongside now well-known favourites and the band closed their set by inciting a circle pit for their final breakdown.

Over the years Static Alice have become firm Chaos favourites and their brand of power pop rock rarely fails to get the crowd going and this was no exception.

From the start Dom Ogier, Scott Michel and Luis Morais were all in full on performance mode getting up on the speakers in front of the stage and rarely dropping the energy for more than hour.

Static Alice at Chaos 13

Static Alice

With the biggest crowd I remember on a Sunday night in a long time Static Alice showcased songs from their new Warrior EP alongside older material that it was clear a lot in audience were familiar with before ending on a crowd pleasing encore of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz.

This closed Chaos on an upbeat note and brought to an end what felt like a newly revived event with something of the spirit of old back with brand new young bands rubbing shoulders with established acts and some great visiting headliners.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the third day

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