Against Me!, Milk Teeth and Mobina Galore – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 08/12/16

Against Me!

Against Me!

Heading into Camden’s famed Electric Ballroom venue on a surprisingly mild December evening it was clear that the night’s headliners, Floridian punk rockers Against Me!, had brought a sense of occasion with them.

Snaking down Camden High Street from the venue’s doors, waiting for them to open, was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve seen for a show all clearly attracted by the message of inclusivity the band have been championing for, at least, their last two albums but in less specific ways their whole career.

This idea of inclusivity was reflected in the supporting line up. It sounds like something that shouldn’t need commenting on but, as this was, I think, the first time it’s happened at a gig I’ve attended, all three bands were at least female fronted but in each case this was far from their defining factor.

Winnipeg duo Mobina Galore kicked off proceedings with a wall of grunge punk noise that combined the fuzz sound of Nirvana-era Seattle with the heavier end of The Offspring’s brand of pop-punk.

Mobina Galore

Mobina Galore

Jenna and Marcia were instantly captivating thanks to the sheer power of their sound, the fact there were two and not at least four people on stage was never sonically noticeable, bringing to mind the likes of The Hyena Kill and Science of Eight Limbs in different ways

This, combined with the way they worked together and obviously fed off one another’s energy, created something that got the already big and still growing audience nicely warmed up.

Had the set gone on any longer I worried their sound may have become a bit repetitive but for a raging half hour Mobina Galore were powerful and absorbing from start to finish.

It was obvious from their reception that Stroud based quartet, Milk Teeth, brought quite a following with them and as they launched in Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation before segueing into their own material that quickly gained more.

The band’s sound was rooted in pop punk but they weren’t scared to venture into heavier territory and it was when they merged the two that they hit their best moments.

Milk Teeth

Milk Teeth

Becky Blomfield was a constant focus with powerful vocals along with a great line in high kicks and bass playing while Billy Hutton, celebrating a year on guitar with the band, acted as a great counterpoint.

Highlights of the set came with Swear Jar and a very nice slower number from Blomfield that was the first moment of the audience consciously coming together in support of a band’s explicit lyrical sentiments – though plenty more such moments were still to come.

With a nice little speech from Hutton continuing this, Milk Teeth delivered a brilliantly uncynical performance that, judging by the audience response at the end of the set, saw them win over many new fans to their diverse punk rock sound.

As a banner revealing a pair of black and white, Rocky Horror-eque, lips was revealed and Against Me! hit the stage the now packed crowd in the sold out Electric Ballroom pushed forward and the level of excitement surpassed possibly any show I’ve ever attended.

Against Me!

Against Me!

Launching into True Trans Soul Rebel before a surprisingly powerful 333 and then Haunting, Haunted, Haunts the band matched this excellently and proceeded to ride a wave of energy with the audience for the next 90 minutes spanning their entire career, balancing older material with a focus on songs from new album Shape Shift With Me.

Despite the fact some of the subjects dealt with in Laura Jane Grace’s lyrics can be on the dark side their delivery camet with a positive attitude and a huge, infectious smile, throughout, with Dead Friends, White Crosses and Delicate, Petite and Things I’ll Never Be highlights of the first part of the set in this regard as the audience sang virtually every word back at the band, at times almost out doing the PA.

While the first half of the set would have made this a stand out show in anyone’s book something changed to elevate it even further when, in the introduction to Bamboo Bones, Grace made a comment that, while she is an atheist she got the impression that the energy she feels performing is the equivalent to that the evangelical claim to feel in church.

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard) of Against Me!

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard)

This seemed to strike a particular chord with the audience, myself more than included, as we shouted back the words ‘What god doesn’t give to you, you have to go and take for yourself’ with an astonishing conviction and invoking a sense of a ‘punk rock revival meeting spiritual’ which continued for the rest of the night.

From there through Boyfriend, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, I Was A Teenage Anarchist and an almost overwhelming Black Me Out, Against Me! took this further elevated energy and converted it into something truly life affirming and poignant on both a personal and social level.

Throughout the set all four members of the band were astonishing. Grace and guitarist James Bowman (the other long-standing member) clearly have a telepathic connection on stage. Inge Johansson (who joined in 2013) looked like Johnny Ramone picked up a bass and got a whole hell of a lot happier while being an energetic powerhouse and clearly having a powerful connection with Grace while Atom Willard (also in the band since 2013) was mesmerising behind the drums, truly thundering and powering the band’s folk-tinged punk rock.

Inge Johansson of Against Me!

Inge Johansson

As the audience called for more Grace headed back onto stage alone and, as well as a customary thanks to the crowd, made the point that playing in the UK means she can be pretty sure she’s not playing for anyone who voted for Trump, before delivering a particularly poignant solo version of Baby I’m An Anarchist from the band’s debut, again with full crowd vocal backing.

With the rest of the band back FuckMyLife666 and a particularly rousing Sink, Florida, Sink closed the show with the audience a sweaty, moshed up mess but still calling for more even as the house lights came up and the backing music returned.

Only beginning to disperse once Grace returned to the stage to distribute some guitar picks brought to a close one of the best night’s I’ve spent in a music venue anywhere (this may be up with the Rancid gig at Brixton in 2006 I have bored my friends about) and re-confirming a sense of punk rock (and live music in general) as not just a genre but a feeling, a lifestyle and a place that is genuinely accepting and life-affirmingly positive in an entirely uncynical way.

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Ginger Wildheart and Ryan Hamilton – Fuck You Brain (single)

Ginger Wildheart and Ryan Hamilton - Fuck You Brain coverIn a nod to his well documented and ongoing battle with depression the ever prolific Ginger Wildheart has found time between touring with his own band, Hey! Hello! and The Wildhearts and recording a new Mutation album to team up with Ryan Hamilton and sneak out a single for the festive season, the subtly but suitably titled Fuck You Brain.

Available through Ginger’s Round Records Bandcamp page the three track single is raising money for the Samaritans and aiming to highlight the problems people have with depression over the holidays which, as Ginger has pointed out, can be one of the toughest times of year for those with the condition.

Belying all the preconceptions one might have of depression Ginger and Hamilton have created a short sharp dose of glam rock laced pop punk – putting the sounds of the early 1970s run through the Wildhearts filter to create something reminiscent of the Silver Ginger 5.

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

While both the relevance of the title and the lyrics to the song will be familiar to many fighting depression themselves, through not sugar-coating or dealing in euphemism Fuck You Brain should also act as a very direct message to those who may discredit or simply not understand how it feels.

And if that feels a little on the heavy going side its counteracted by the music which can only make you want to move and Ginger’s always impressive turn of phrase helps keep it light too.

As well as the title track the single, in an old school moment I can only appreciate, is backed by two more short sharp tracks.

Ode To The Idiots, featuring lead vocals from Hamilton, is a blazing minute of punk rock that packs in everything you could want and is reminiscent of Jim Carroll’s People Who Died.

Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton

Dogbreath on the other hand has sounds reminiscent of the instrumentals on Ginger’s own Valor Del Corazon LP, combining his usual punk-metal guitars with synthesised brass and scratching to make something truly eccentric in the way only Ginger can.

As I’ve said above the single is raising money and awareness this festive season and is available through Bandcamp for £5 though as it’s for a good cause and is a great little set of songs, the musicians (who appear for free) are asking that people feel free to pay as all proceeds will go to charity.

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SugarSlam Vs Insurrection – De La Rue – 03/12/16

Insurrection

Insurrection

It might only have been the first weekend of December but it was clear in St Peter Port on Saturday night that Christmas Party season was in full swing, so it was refreshing to find an antidote to all the forced camaraderie and bad jumpers at the De La Rue, as veteran bands Insurrection and SugarSlam marked milestone anniversaries.

With 30 years under their belts old school British-style hardcore act Insurrection only make occasional appearances these days but, with gigs in the UK over the past couple of years and talk of new recordings on the way, they are far from dormant.

As they launched into opening song Regression (following a suitably politically dark intro tape) they more than proved this with a wall of fuzz and feedback guitars, thundering drums, powerful bass and the distinctive howls of vocalists Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp.

Insurrection - Le Page and Allsopp

Le Page and Allsopp of Insurrection

While it could be argued their more political material, mostly now dating back to late 1980s, is gaining a new relevance, it’s hard to view the hardcore/anarcho punk style without a strangely nostalgic feeling, even for me who wasn’t there first time around, and it was clear tonight that any messages were largely preaching to the converted.

Newer songs like Speak Your Mind and brand new one Black Dog though felt far more immediate with less specific but still important messages and slightly more advanced sounds, Black Dog even headed into doom-like territory with quite a groove developing under the intensity.

All that said regardless of the subject matter the band played with a real ferocity and pace that, while possibly not to the taste of the more casual punters in the audience was in its way refreshing, even if this was possibly the most good-natured set I have seen from them – complete with spontaneous tequila shots mid-set from one enthusiastic audience member.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

While not quite as longstanding as Insurrection 2016 marked 25 years since SugarSlam first hit the stage, I believe at an all dayer in the bowels of Beau Sejour. The last couple of years have seen the revived band go from strength to strength with stand out performances at several shows and festivals and here they seemed to approach the gig with a new-found confidence combined with a relaxed and fun nature that really suits their grungy, power pop/rock style.

Their set may have felt on the short side but I got the feeling they were playing at a kind of hyper speed, possibly to try to follow the openers, but that didn’t stop it being a great performance that had the now expanded crowd (including several in bad jumpers by this stage) engaged.

Drawing mostly on their own songs (with a few crowd pleasing covers thrown in) their sense of fun was infectious and it’s hard not to sing along to likes of State, Crank and Psychobabble while Jackals showed the band’s heavier side.

SugarSlam - Brett and Plumb

Brett and Plumb of SugarSlam

The set culminated with AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie that, I’m told, highlighted their first ever show, before they were called back for their now customary tribute to Lemmy and blast through Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades that left the audience still shouting for more.

All of this combined to make for a surprisingly relaxed night of great music away from the enforced jollity of the season and showed why, when you have the right bands, the De La Rue is capable being one of the best spaces for live music in town.

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

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Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons – Dirty Rock ‘N’ Roll

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons - Dirty Rock 'n' RollIf you asked a cartoonist to draw a punky, rock n roll trio there’s a fair chance that, in the best of ways, they’d come up with something thing like Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons.

Fronted by the enigmatic human-cat girl Puss, with be-quiffed greaser Dirty Jake on guitar and old school rocker Filfy Antz on drums, before you even press play on the newly released digital edition of their Dirty Rock ‘N’ Roll album on Dirty Water Records, they are captivating.

From opener Burying The Bodies all the tropes of Cramps style proto-psychobilly are present with a definite taste for the macabre running across the record while Jake’s guitars, as they do live, combine low-end rumbling rhythms with classic rock n roll lead, with a bit of slide thrown in for good measure to create something very much of his own.

As the record rolls on things vary with Puss’ lyrics bringing up everything from adolescent romance (of a sort) to antidepressants to the kind of less glamorous ladies that prowl British town centres of a weekend on the appropriately titled and raging album closer, Hideous.

pussycat and the dirty johnsons

Antz, Puss and Jake

Throughout Puss’s vocals combine aspects of Johnny Rotten, Poly Styrene and Little Richard. Much like Jake’s guitar this makes for something all her own that more than stands up without her on stage antics, while still evoking her feline side.

As well as the core trio two tracks on the album also feature the double bass work of Phil Polecat, while not essential thanks to Jake’s unique guitar style they do make for the stand out tracks on the record in ‘lead single’ Get Outta My Face and Dirty L’il Dog, though Mirtazapine and the opening trio of Burying The Bodies, Hell Bent and Living With  Mum And Dad all come a close second.

While Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons are undeniably a band with a strong visual style, Dirty Rock ‘N’ Roll shows that they more than hold their own when that’s removed and their mix of punk and rock ‘n’ roll is allowed to speak for itself.

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WWE 205 Live – 29/11/16

WWE 205 LiveOver the summer of 2016 WWE did something unprecedented for them by staging a tournament for Cruiserweight wrestlers from around the world, whether they were permanently signed to the company of not, the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC).

Taped at the same venue as the NXT Arena in Orlando, Florida the small, intimate, knowledgable crowd, combined with some of the best wrestlers I’ve seen in a long time, made for a special series of events that climaxed with the crowning of a new WWE Cruiserweight Champion.

While the likes of Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr stole the tournament, and for the most part Ibushi looked like a favourite to win, the whole concept was really what stood out as it seemed to something of a throw back to a time when we could believe that professional wrestling was a sport and who won and who lost really mattered, combined with modern sensibilities.

Triple H, TJ Perkins and William Regal

Triple H, TJ Perkins and William Regal

The tournament was finally won by TJ Perkins, while not Ibushi or Sabre still a worthy winner and crucially recently signed to the WWE (something neither of the aforementioned grapplers agreed to), and the Cruiserweight Division was moved to the WWE’s flagship show Monday Night Raw.

On Raw it retained some aspects of the CWC shows with handshakes and its own purple colour scheme, including ropes and matt, while more ‘sports entertainment’ aspects were introduced attempting to give some of the performers more developed characters.

Most successful of these was past WWE Superstar and now veteran, ‘The’ Brian Kendrick, who defeated TJ Perkins for the championship at the Hell In A Cell special in the build up to what I’m looking at here, 205 Live, a new show focussing specifically on the WWE Cruiserweight Division and airing live on the WWE Network, kicking off on Tuesday 29th November following Smackdown.

WWE 205 Live superstars

WWE 205 Live Superstars

Being filmed in a far bigger arena than the CWC instantly gave the show a different feel, as did the rather quiet crowd as commentary team Mauro Ronallo, ‘The Saviour of Misbehaviour’ Corey Graves and ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’ Austin Aries hyped what was to come, before we were introduced to the ‘Superstars of 205 Live’.

While Perkins, Kendrick and current number one contender Rich Swann got a decent reception, most of the rest of the line up were greeted in a muted fashion which was a bit concerning before we got a video hyping the Sihra brother tag team duo, The Bollywood Boys.

These hype videos were something that worked really well on the CWC to introduce the competitors in a snappy way, but there the gimmicks were less pronounced and the competition more to the fore, here it was hard not to see The Bollywood Boys as yet another bland, babyface duo who are confusingly at once from India (hence the name) and Canada (hence the wrestling skills), this led to them making their way to the ring to a fairly quiet reception in the cavernous arena.

Sihra and Neese

Sihra and Neese

Their opponents, already in the ring but thanks to appearances on Raw already established as heels, were ‘The Premier Athlete’ Tony Neese and Drew Gulak. This choice of adversaries thankfully told the crowd all they needed to know and they soon got behind the Indian/Canadians.

The match itself set the scene well with a mix of high-flying spots and groundwork along with some stiff looking, almost ‘strong style’, striking from Neese and Gulak before the faces got the win with a nicely delivered double-superkick. Of the spots a highlight for me was a tandem clothesline/DDT that was something I’d not seen before and, if a little contrived, looked great.

Following the match the heels were interviewed in the aisle bringing back in an element of the ‘real sport’ style of the CWC, though Gulak showed why he’s not been given any live mic time before while Neese did his best to rescue it and just about managed.

After a hype video for Gran Metallik, apparently he’s coming soon despite having been on the stage with the rest of the crew at the start, and a backstage interview with Kendrick it was time for one-on-one competition between fairly typical heel Ariya Daivari and ‘The Extraordinary Gentlemen’ Jack Gallagher.

Gallagher and Daivari

Gallagher and Daivari

Gallagher headed to the ring to a pleasantly positive reaction and is one of the performers I was most looking forward to seeing following his outings in the CWC and his reputation from the recently revived British wrestling scene. The match itself was mostly an exhibition for Gallagher’s ‘unique style’ derived from his training at the Wigan Snakepit as well as his own take on showmanship.

Throughout the match Gallagher showcased some of his trademark moves including an impressive range of chain wrestling counters, a ‘Jim Breaks special’ and the ridiculous but somehow impressive ‘Windsor Knot’ submission hold which has to be seen to be believed, before Gallagher scored the win following his stiff looking corner dropkick. Aries on commentary came into his own here with what I’m hoping sounded like a set up for a feud between the veteran and Gallagher once Austin is cleared to wrestle again.

Kendrick and Swann

Kendrick and Swann

While I’ve enjoyed Rich Swann’s work since the CWC I will admit that seeing him as number one contender for the Cruiserweight Championship didn’t have me convinced as it seems to have come around very quickly – also I am a big fan of Kendrick’s work both recently and from his past time in WWE. None the less they did a good job of building at least a mild sense of anticipation for the main event championship encounter.

Going back and forth for the best part of 20 minutes Kendrick and Swann put on a great match that showed the best of both men and it wasn’t long before the crowd were really getting into it, rooting for the good guy against the genuinely dastardly heel. Both men hit their big spots and seemed to be pushing the envelope further than they had on their outings on Raw with the likes of Kendrick’s turnbuckle neckbreaker, a dragon suplex and a top rope ‘avalanche’ version of his Sliced Bread #2 being particularly strong moments.

Kendrick and Swann

Kendrick and Swann

Swann also held his own, convincing me of his position at the top of the card, picking up the win with a trio of impressive spinning heel kicks.

The end of the show came with more of the ‘real sport’ style post match interviews with Swann being the good babyface and dedicating his win to his late mother, while Kendrick showed why he really is the jewel in the crown of WWE’s Cruiserweights with a bitter heel promo that suggested a follow-up to this throwing TJ Perkins back into the mix.

In the end the premier edition of 205 Live was a bit of a mixed bag. The action in the ring was consistently good and at times great and at least three of the competitors ended the show being very much over with the crowd. Unfortunately staging it in an arena with an audience already tired from the previous two-hour Smackdown programme sapped some of the energy and excitement from the show as a whole.

Rich Swann

Rich Swann

While it didn’t quite live up to the excellence that was the CWC, 205 Live is a bold move for WWE and one that I hope develops from here into something special, which based on this it certainly has the potential to do.

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Sound Guernsey Birthday Show – The Fermain Tavern – 25/11/16

Honest Crooks help Jon and Ani celebrate a year of Sound

Honest Crooks help Jon and Ani celebrate a year of Sound

For their first birthday show Sound Guernsey put on a show at The Fermain Tavern that continued their mission to allow the island’s youngsters to experience a range of live music, in a safe setting, with four bands spanning a range of sounds and styles – you can see more of my photos from the show by clicking here.

First up was garage punk two piece The Phantom Cosmonaut.

As I’m a member of the band I can’t really say much about them other than that we had a great time on stage and it seemed the audience responded by heading down to the front for the duration.

Having made their mark at Sound back in the summer Jawbone hit the stage to a great reception that continued throughout their typically raucous set.

Jawbone

Jawbone

With covers by the likes of The Damned, Vandals and The Misfits alongside originals and a couple of punked up pop songs they delivered one of their tighter sets, though still with their own sense of sloppy fun that had the enthusiastic audience singing along to both well-known covers and the band’s own songs – all while pogo-ing along.

The second act making their Sound debut tonight were Day Release, more accustomed to the pub rock circuit that didn’t stop them getting the crowd going from the off and it was their take at Green Day’s Basket Case that really got them moving and singing along.

With some extra guitar solo moments thrown in from fellow birthday boy Tricky the band had an extra energy than when I’ve seen the, in the last, possibly down to playing to quite such an energetic crowd.

Day Release

Day Release

This aspect of the crowd is one that has developed along with Sound and its move to The Fermain Tavern seems to have helped it no end. While in the first few months the audience would get involved from time to time now, in the environs of Guernsey’s premier music venue, they have become engaged and enraptured throughout.

While some seem content to nod along, intently watching the performers, others are more inclined to dance, but all head to the front seemingly regardless of the style of music on offer which is refreshing to see when so often bands play to an empty dancefloor with an audience lurking in the shadows,

Another band who’ve become firm Sound favourites, Honest Crooks, rounded off the night with guest drummer Barney Bean (more commonly seen in Blakalaska) adding something of an extra speed and punch to the ska punk sounds.

Honest Crooks at Sound Guernsey

Honest Crooks

Once agin the audience were into it from the start with many singing along to the band’s original songs as well as the their takes on a few pop hits. Some guitar issues didn’t slow the band up as Lee from Jawbone happily provided a replacement before himself joining the Crooks on stage to add kazoo (in the place of brass) to High Grade.

The fast paced Stressball rounded off the set with plenty of skanking (of a sort) on the dancefloor before the surprise birthday cake was served and, with an impressive line up already confirmed for their Christmas party, it looks like Sound is going from strength to strength in helping create a new generation of musically inspired youth.

You can see more of my photos from the show by clicking here

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: November 2016 – Burning At Both Ends and Brunt

Burning at Both Ends on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Burning at Both Ends on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Click here to listen to the show

Following the showcases earlier in the week with Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1, I was back on BBC Radio Guernsey on Saturday 26th November for the regular BBC Introducing Guernsey show.

My guests playing an acoustic session this month were Burning At Both Ends, while they were in the studio I had a chat with them about their debut album and the state of pop punk in Guernsey today.

I also spoke to Brunt who have recently released a new EP, Blackbeard, and they told me about recording it and the response they’ve had from all over the world to both their previous release and the new one.

You can listen to the show for a month on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here or downloading the BBC iPlayer Radio App.

Tracklist

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BBC Introducing Guernsey on BBC Radio 1 – November 2016

Huw Stephens

For three nights in the week of 21st November 2016 I, through BBC Introducing Guernsey, had the chance to showcase a selection of new music on Huw Stephens show on BBC Radio 1.

All the tracks played were sent to me through the BBC Introducing Uploader which is the best way to get heard by BBC Introducing presenters and producers across the network, you can find it by clicking here.

Day One

The first track to get showcased came from recently reformed indie-folk five-piece, The Recks, with the new single from their upcoming debut album, Low Life.

The Recks at The Fermain Tavern

The Recks

The second track is from one of the hardest gigging bands in Guernsey, Static Alice, with Hurricane from their Beautiful Mystery EP.

Click here to listen to the show (search through to 2 hour 25 minutes)

Day Two

The second day was one for a pair of Guernsey’s top rock bands. First was Of Empires, now based of Brighton the four-piece have recently appeared on the UK MTV playlist as well as touring with Adam Ant, their featured track was new single See You With The Angels Kid.

Things got a bit heavy for the second song with Lord Vapour‘s Misty Meadows from their debut album Mill Street Blues.

Click here to listen to the show (search through to 2 hour 25 minutes)

Of Empires

Of Empires

Day Three

The final showcase had a bit more of a relaxed feel starting off with the recent winner of Best Of British Unsigned’s Best Female Solo Performer of 2016, Nessi Gomes with These Walls.

This was followed by the debut collaboration from two well established members of Guernsey’s music scene, Buff Hudd & Flexagon with Drifting (Into The Light).

Click here to listen to the show (search through to 2 hour 25 minutes)

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Tiger Army and Nervous Twitch – Sound Control, Manchester – 19/11/16

Tiger Army at Sound Control

Tiger Army

Heading to a new venue is always interesting and Sound Control in Manchester is one I had no prior knowledge of before heading north. From the outside it looked suitably like many other venues; dark, with a group of rocker looking types heading inside and somehow off the beaten path despite being right next to a main street.

Inside things continued well with a main live room upstairs with room for around 300 people all of whom must have had at least a decent view and a stage big enough to be something but without creating too much separation between the crowd and the band – spot on for a gig like this.

Before the night’s headliners hit the stage a last-minute addition to the bill came in the form of Leed’s trio Nervous Twitch. Made up of Erin Van Rumble (bass and vocals), Jay Churchley (guitar) and Ashley Goodall (drums and backing vocals) they set the tone right away with a mix of poppy punk with surfy guitars and hints of bubblegum and 60s pop echoing The Runaways, The Ramones and The Undertones with suggestions of The B-52s thrown in.

Erin Van Rumble of Nervous Twitch

Erin Van Rumble

While they came across as a bit nervous at first Van Rumble was soon throwing shapes with her Danelectro Longhorn bass while Churchley’s understated stage presence was more than made up for by some top-notch, reverb heavy, guitar work.

A highlight came with an instrumental surfy number, though elsewhere Van Rumble’s vocals were excellently balanced between sweet pop and biting punk. With this Nervous Twitch more than held the crowd’s attention and I’m sure won over some new fans – at the very least two in the form of me and my gig-going friend.

As a fine selection of choice rock ’n’ roll, rockabilly, psychobilly and garage weirdness (including songs from The Cramps and Screaming Lord Sutch) played through the in-house sound system there was a clear sense of anticipation for Tiger Army. Having not toured the UK in nearly a decade this was unsurprising and, despite having seen their 2015 Octoberflame show, I was equally as swept along, so, as the strains of Hank William’s Angel of Death emerged from the PA the mood was high, despite the melancholy tone of the intro tape.

Tiger Army at Sound Control

Tiger Army

After a customary live intro the band launched into Firefall from new album V… and never really looked back delivering a set spanning their entire career, quite impressively going right back to their first EP with Jungle Cat and their take on Eddie Cochran’s 20 Flight Rock which really getting the crowd going.

While the whole set was well delivered it was clear that there are some songs which the audience really connected with, so the likes of Ghostfire, Cupid’s Victim, Pain and FTW were instant highlights (a nice touch was Nick 13’s subtle but telling intro to FTW).

As band leader Nick 13 (guitar and lead vocals) is a mesmerising presence; energetic and open throughout, connecting with the audience through an amazing pair of eyes and with a voice that has an immense power while rarely resorting to shouting, except when appropriate. With him drummer Mike Fasano was a dynamic powerhouse getting the spirit of punk rock mixed with rockabilly to a tee while Djordje Stijepovic’s upright bass work was truly excellent and the band as a whole gelled very well, particularly considering Tiger Army has often been a rotating cast around 13 they still felt like a cohesive unit.

Nick 13 of Tiger Army

Nick 13

While the ‘big songs’ went down well there were moments where the energy dipped, particularly on the slower tracks from V… but 13 worked the crowd excellently to overcome this as much as possible. The band’s sound has changed so much since their youthful rage fuelled songs the dynamic conflict was inevitable and, in a way, made the show allowing different aspects of all three members playing and personality to come out.

Rounding the main part of the set off on their anthem, Never Die, quickly had the audience calling them back up for an encore that culminated in an extended Sea Of Fire to a rapturous reception and closing out a show that, while not as instantly powerful as Octoberflame (how could it be?) was still excellent and a fine example of a band working together and with the audience to create something special and memorable.

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Doctor Strange

 Doctor Strange poster Marvel Studios’ output has, over the last couple of years, become somewhat erratic – for every fun adventure like Guardians of the Galaxy there had been a plodding smash em up retread like Age of Ultron, so with the arrival of the Sorcerer Supreme and the Cosmic Realm in Doctor Strange, how have they done?

From the start it’s a bit of a mix as we are introduced to Mads Mikkelsen’s antagonist Kaecilius and his band of Zealots using their mystic powers while we then meet Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr Stephen Strange as an arrogant neurosurgeon using his more scientific powers.

While throughout its clear Mikelsen and Cumberbatch are both having a great time and there are suggestions (I won’t dwell on them as really they are only suggestions) of more grown up themes the basic plot is more of the same – we get Strange’s origin story with some not so subtle references to other Marvel movies thrown in and a big cgi bad to face off against in the climax.

Despite this however the design and visuals make this a lot of fun. While the city folding is a bit sub-Inception it is the tour de force introduction to the cosmic realm and then later forays there that really stand out. 

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

 Combining Steve Ditko’s psychedelic artwork with aspects of the 2001 ‘stargate’ it expands on things glimpsed in Ant-Man to great effect and discovering it along with Strange is very well handled.

Also well handled is a fairly standard act three which, at one point, I worried it was all going a bit Suicide Squad but a last minute contrivance actually made it slightly more interesting than it might otherwise have been.

Most of all though, a little like Ant-Man, I think my favourite aspect was that at no point did Doctor Strange take itself too seriously. Strange himself could easily have been tiresome but was suitably lampooned as ‘an asshole’ whenever necessary while Mikelsen’s sense of fun slightly elevated his character above the likes of Guardian’s Ronan The Accursed – though it’s fair to say Marvel still don’t have the strongest rogues gallery. 

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecillius

Mikkelsen as Kaecillius

 With hints and suggestions of more interesting things to come (as well as some inevitable, likely tiresome, team ups) Doctor Strange is an entertaining watch with a slight twist on the old formula. It’s not going to break any boundaries like its hero does but it’s a diverting addition to the Marvel archive slightly outside the main Avengers narrative.

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