Tag Archives: punk

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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Rancid – Trouble Maker

Rancid - Trouble Maker album coverThe better part of three decades into their career it’s fair to say Rancid have slipped into the territory of being, at least to a degree, elder statesmen of the Californian punk scene and the wider global punk scene with it, possibly even more so than relative contemporaries like Green Day (another band to release a new album in the last 12 months) due to their previous lives in other bands and generally maintained credibility throughout.

Now, with Trouble Maker, their ninth studio album, they continue a trend that began after 2003’s Indestructible of creating something enjoyable and generally satisfying but hard to remove from something of a ‘by the numbers’ feel.

Within that though there’s still a lot to like, kicking off in their usual upbeat mode with a short, punchy number, Track Fast, before lead singles Ghost of a Chance and the acoustic tinged Telegraph Avenue, that bears strong hallmarks of Tim ‘Timebomb’ Armstrong’s solo side project.

From there it twists and turns through the usual sounds we’ve come to expect from the dancefloor filling ska of Where I’m Going to the more hardcore influence of All American Neighborhood to the positive pogoing material of Goodbye Lola Blue along with (sort of) title track An Intimate Close Up Of A Street Punk Troublemaker‘s shout along chorus.

Rancid 2017

Rancid (Steineckert, Armstong, Frederiksen and Freeman)

As ever Armstrong’s slurred and intentionally lose delivery is counterpointed by Lars Frekeriksen’s precise and barked vocal and guitar parts while Matt Freeman’s bass playing brings the rock ‘n’ roll and relative newcomer (this is his third album with the band), drummer, Branden Steineckert keeps the punk rock power pounding throughout.

As with Honour Is All We Know as the album goes on there are points where the tracks begin to run together somewhat, but it has to be said that where this happens Rancid’s sound is enough to carry them through, particularly for a fan.

While its far from musically revolutionary what Rancid continue to do with Trouble Maker is something that I think is a strong part of their longevity as, while they don’t sing directly about politics or protest, their portraits of characters and life in and around their original base in the East Bay reflects something larger and more universal in many ways, while also generally being supremely engaging, charismatic and entertaining.

Tim Armstrong - Rancid 2017

Armstrong/Timebomb live circa 2017

With all this in mind there is something of a sense that Rancid may have become a little like the punk rock AC/DC or Motörhead, releasing albums that, while maybe not surprising or ‘classic’ in the way …And Out Come The Wolves was, are involving and enjoyable in just the right ways and remain packed with songs made for the live environment with the potential for singalongs, skanking and pogoing galore.

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Static Alice EP launch with Honest Crooks, track not found and Common Room – The Fermain Tavern – 20/05/17

Static Alice

Static Alice

After making their reputation with countless live shows over the last few years Static Alice have also found the time to record and release both a full length album and EP, and now, they’ve marked the releases of their third record, another EP titled Warrior, with what looked set to be a special show at The Fermain Tavern.

Continuing something of a trend they began a while ago two of the support acts were at the newer and younger end of the scene, with acoustic pop trio Common Room on stage first.

With acoustic guitar, bass guitar and vocals and a very pop sensibility, Common Room presented something a bit different to many acts over here. Vocalist Olivia Manheim seemed to have all the ingredients to be an excellent an engaging front person, though maybe was a little restrained in the face of a small and distant audience here.

Common Room

Common Room

Common Room were at their best when all three members relaxed into the performance as happened a few times, particularly on an impressive original song and as the set went on, and they definitely made a good impression on the small audience.

Second of the young bands was track not found. While they took a couple of songs to hit their stride once they did their combination of grunge, punk and indie rock sounded as good as ever.

While Grace Tayler leads the band with a singular presence that brings to mind Dresden Doll’s Amanda Palmer run through a noisy rock filter, Emma Thomas (drums) and Maisie Bison (bass and vocals) more than ably fill out the rest of the sound, with both carving their own niche within the band.

track not found

track not found

Once again the band gave it their all with Code Red and Ecstasy being particular highlights of a set that continued to win over new fans.

Like the headliners, Honest Crooks are another band who’d taken a bit for a break from live shows earlier in the year.

After outings at Chaos at the Jam and for the Vale Earth Fair’s Liberation Day show at The Last Post where they added organ and saxophone player Naomi Burton to their line up, they brought this more developed ska sound to The Tav .

Being my first time seeing this version of the band I wasn’t sure what to expect and it did take them a little longer than usual to settle into their normal fun and upbeat vibe but, once they were there, the additional sounds really lifted the music to a new level with the best moments allowing a new sonic dynamic between James Radford’s guitar and the organ and saxophone parts.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a couple of new songs thrown into the mix, along with some old favourites and a couple of well-chosen covers, Honest Crooks drew the most people onto the dancefloor but with still only a small crowd the set didn’t quite live up to their much deserved reputation.

Even though they were launching a new record Static Alice started out in much the way they usually do with a selection of their now fairly well-known and established pop-rockers, in typically tight and energetic fashion.

Unfortunately with most of the audience seemingly more interested in the bar than the band their efforts did little more than elicit some light bopping from the dedicated few who remained on the dancefloor.

A decent mid set run at Audioslave’s Cochise (the set’s only cover), in tribute to the recently departed Chris Cornell, seemed to grab a little more interest but this soon waned which is a real shame as, as I’ve said before, Static Alice have a strong line in hooky, driven, rock that, at its best, can really get a crowd going.

Static Alice

Static Alice

With three of the four tracks from the Warrior EP saved for a final blast and demonstrating a slightly heavier side to the band even these fell flat as the obvious effort being put in from in the stage seemed to be lost in an energy sucking void before it reached the audience.

While there are always reasons for low turn outs at shows this one felt particularly hard to reconcile given the effort all four acts put in but it ultimately turned what should have been a celebratory night of high energy music into something disappointingly flat.

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

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Guernsey Gigs presents Thee Jenerators, Joe Young and The Bandits and Silas The Assyrian Assassin – The Fermain Tavern – 06/05/17

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

With a bank holiday last weekend and another coming up next week with Liberation Day, it was hard to escape the feeling of this being something of a limbo weekend, but, thanks to Guernsey Gigs, there was the hope of rock ‘n’ roll salvation at The Fermain Tavern.

The night started off in slightly more sedate fashion than that though with the acoustic punk stylings of Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Silas combined aspects of his past work fronting some the islands most notable punk bands of the last decade with hints of the ranting poetry style of Attila the Stockbroker but all in package that looked constantly on the verge of collapse.

Following a full play of The A-Team theme tune, his performance tonight seemed a little lacking in the energy and spirit of his best ones. That said it was still entertaining enough with the usual grace notes like fumbling with a folded up set list still working well.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Musically it was as you’d expect with highlights coming with Trust Fund Anarchist, Interesting Facts and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while we didn’t get the full song, Boozing’s My Religion started out as a nice play on the REM classic.

By the end of the set, an improbable cover of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up with Stace Blondel providing backing vocals from the audience, it had picked up a little and it remained entertaining but I couldn’t help but think Silas really needs a more intimate space and engaged audience to really be properly effective.

Styles couldn’t have shifted much more next as Jersey four-piece Joe Young & The Bandits launched us through a time warp into the 1970s for a set of hard rocking power blues.

While I found it hard to engage with their performance there was no denying how well they evoked the sounds and styles of the likes of Hendrix, Cream, Zeppelin, et al, but through a set of convincingly created original songs.

Frontman Martin o’Neill (there is no actual Joe Young) was nicely energetic (when he wasn’t stood frustratingly with his back to the audience) though there were moments that felt a little too much like Tenacious D, but in the throwback context they worked ok.

Joe Young & The Bandits

Joe Young & The Bandits

Bass player Eddie Laffoley meanwhile was the most naturally energetic on stage and even put in some nice vocal performances in a few tracks. Of course a band like this wins or loses with its guitarist and Greg Alliban more than lived up to expectations with his playing, but again I found it hard to find a connection with the performance.

Joe Young & The Bandits may be a barrage of cliché but it’s hard to ignore the head nodding groove they invoked, even if it was nothing I hadn’t heard a hundred times before.

After a short break Thee Jenerators took to the stage for the first time in a good while and, to start with, it looked like the good but not great feel of the night was going to continue as the band ran through a few of their newer songs.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

As soon as they launched into Fight The Power from their Jenerator X debut though things seemed to kick up several gears and never let up as we experienced possibly the most powerful garage punk assault this version of the band have produced to date.

While there were moments throughout the set where each band member seemed to lose their thread a little they didn’t let that slow them down as they powered through a selection of songs spanning their whole time together from Mystery Man to  French Disco to Yellow Fruit Pastille to Daddy Bones and got most of the small audience onto the dance floor.

With three encores culminating with a version of Bela Lugosi that verged on completely falling apart, Thee Jenerators put in a set that ended up showing them as the cathartic force of nature they are at their best and, as frontman Mark Le Gallez pointed out, there may not be many bands like this left around these days but we’re glad of those that there are, and I’m very glad there’s Thee Jenerators.

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

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Sound Guernsey: Burning at Both Ends, Jawbone, WaterColour Matchbox and Track Not Found – The Fermain Tavern – 21/04/17

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

Jawbone

Jawbone

As Sound Guernsey have now announced their involvement with both the Chaos and Vale Earth Fair festivals this summer, it might just be me, but their April show at The Fermain Tavern seemed to have a further increase in its positive atmosphere amongst the assembled youngsters.

The first band to form out of the Sound events, Track Not Found, opened the show and once again showed some development following recent appearances in front of new audiences at both a The Vault and the recent metal night at the The Tav.

With more fuzz in the sound here and a more deliberate pace their grungy blues had something of an added stoner quality to it.

Track Not Found

Track Not Found

While the band have become nice and tight they still lack something in stage presence between the songs, but this is a minor criticism and something likely to develop with time and guitarist/vocalist Grace Tayler in particular has a great look evoking something of the riotgrrl feel of the 1990s but with her own twist.

Highlights in their set came with Ecstasy and new song Code Red both of which demonstrated not just their sound but their way of writing songs exactly as they want them in their own way, which is refreshing to hear in a young band.

Following a successful couple of first gigs over the last few months WaterColour Matchbox brought their brand of nu-grunge flavoured prog metal to Sound.

While it seemed to lack some of the metallic bite of their outing at the recent metal night, the four-piece were still as tight as they come and did crank up the heaviness a few times as the set went on.

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

With heads banging to some of the heaviest sounds the Sound crowd had been treated to, the band debuted a new song indicating we can expect more of the same to come.

After the precision controlled delivery of WaterColour Matchbox things couldn’t have been much more different as Jawbone took to the stage with their usual chaotic brand of punk rock.

While the classic covers that have been their hallmark up to now were all present, correct and hugely enjoyable, it was the raft of new originals that brought the highlights. Combining something of the abrasive Californian skate punk of the likes of NoFX and mixing it with the intensity of the classic British style led to a sound at once politically charged and vaguely nihilistic with a typically direct lyrical streak.

Steve of Jawbone

Steve of Jawbone

In the midst of the chaos that saw guitarist Lee Burton don a wedding dress (for reasons best known to himself) and bass player Dan Keltie head of stage with bass and mic for a run at The Damned’s Neat Neat Neat, frontman Steve Scratton demonstrated a newly confident side to his performance properly interacting with the crowd during the songs in a way rarely seen over here.

All this made for a set that was my highlight of the night and, suitably enough, included their take on The Misfits’ Astro Zombies on Jerry Only’s birthday.

The punk rock vibe continued, in slightly different form, with the powerful pop punk of Burning At Both Ends.

Over the last year ‘BABE’ have become one of the favourite bands for the Sound audience and, while going on a bit late mean the crowd had shrunk somewhat, they still got the audience onto the dancefloor from the start.

Another band debuting some new songs, BABE showed they are continuing with more of the same as their first album, in this case no bad thing, and the crowd ate it up.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

For me they lacked the raw energy of Jawbone that I love, but it’s hard to escape the infectious quality of Burning At Both Ends and with a streak of heaviness alongside some great singalong moments they closed the show on a high, maintaining their spot as Sound favourites.

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Undaunted (selected poems 2014-2016) by Attila The Stockbroker

Attila The Stockbroker - UndauntedFor over thirty years Attila The Stockbroker has stood as one of the primary forces in the movement of ranting poetry. Grown from the same place as the second wave of punk in the early 1980s, the ranters were often found on the same stages as their noisier contemporaries, but, like the bands, over the years most have fallen by the wayside in one way or another.

Not so Attila. Following his fascinating and frank autobiography last year comes a new set of his poems, his eighth since 1985, suitably titled Undaunted.

Coming from the same scene that gave us the likes of Crass it’s not surprising that much of Attila’s reputation comes from his rabble rousing rebel ranting, and that is firmly in evidence here.

As up to the minute as it’s possible to be he takes on the targets you’d expect, Trump, Brexit, Farage and May in particular, in his own scathing, satirical and down to earth way.

While the titular poem, one of the books longest, is a more serious affair than many, elsewhere it is Attila’s streak of (appropriately) crass humour that makes this more than an ‘angry old leftie’ having a go with Rock ‘n’ Roll Brexit, Farageland, Theresa The Appeaser and Corbyn Supporters From Hell (a play on one of his earlier works) as highlights.

Attila The Stockbroker on stage with Barnstormer

Attila on stage with Barnstormer at Vale Earth Fair 2014

Along with these though we get another side to Attila, one that has always been there but seems more poignant as he moves on with life, poems that, in many ways, feel they really be credited to John. In these he takes a look a life, death and football in a way that is genuinely poignant.

It would be easy for his words on these subjects to become a bit cliché or over-processed like so much bad food, but his manner and style of writing and description just makes them feel real as in Candid Camera, Auntie Rose and the hugely effecting My Ninth Birthday.

Throughout all of these Attila’s politics still feature whether it’s championing the NHS or highlighting how past Conservative governments have caused tragedy for working class communities but in a less direct way, so it’s My Doctor Martens that pulls the two sides together and exists as a macrocosm of the rest of the collection.

Attila The Stockbroker

Accompanied by some excellent illustrations by Dan Woods (guitarist with Attila’s band, Barnstormer) and (I guess i should admit my involvement) a rather nice photo by yours truly taken at the Vale Earth Fair a few years back, Undaunted see Attila The Stockbroker continue to do just what he’s always done; speak his truth loud, proud and clear with an honesty, wit and humour many he ridicules could do with learning a thing or two about.

Much like his great inspiration John Cooper Clarke, Attila’s work may be best experienced read live and loud by its author but none-the-less the written versions remain hugely effective and effecting and it doesn’t seem there’s any slowing down this undaunted veteran yet.

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Ten Years In An Open Necked Shirt by John Cooper Clarke

John Cooper Clarke - Ten Years In An Open Necked ShirtWhile I generally don’t have too much bad to say about the education system I went through, there was one thing throughout my studying of English that they never quite managed to transmit – that poetry really is at its best when read aloud.

Certainly some poetry is a written medium with clever use of form, style and language to make its point, but, much like music, the stuff that really grips me is the performed sort… So enter ‘The Bard of Salford’, Dr. John Cooper Clarke.

First published in 1983, his debut printed collection Ten Years In An Open Necked Shirt takes the cream of Clarke’s early work, from his days as a pioneering ‘punk poet’ and captures them in text.

While it’s clear throughout that this stuff was written to be read out loud and, even better, performed, if read with Clarke’s harsh, biting accent in mind it works just as well on the page as beat and bop meet punk and pop in a surreal satire of life in northern England in the 1960s and 70s that, in many ways, still rings true today.

Supporting punk bands in the late 1970s, as he came too early for the alternative comedy movement he no doubt helped inspire, gave Clarke’s writing a certain political position but, in reading it, it is vividly apolitical. In this it allows the reader to get an image in their mind and, at times, create a political context for it of their own, while at other times simply get lost in a flight of surreal fantasy that captures an aspect of the popular culture of the time.

John Cooper Clarke

John Cooper Clarke (circa 1982)

A couple of specific examples of this could be the triumphant Beezley Street which presents the feel of a hellish nightmare (but probably more realistic) version of (long running soap opera) Coronation Street and it’s sort of opposite Kung-Fu International, obviously capturing the early 70s kung-fu trend through Clarke’s harsh, street level filter.

Throughout things move from bleak to hilarious, often within a verse or stanza, let alone from poem to poem, but all come with a feeling of something that could only have emerged when it did – with The Goons and Spike Milligan clearly as much of an influence as Ginsberg or Kerouac, or Rotten, Vanian, et al.

Along with Clarke’s words the book features some great illustrations by Steve Maguire that work in a similar way to Ralph Steadman’s work with Hunter S. Thompson, though in a less brutally graphic way, but they too capture the mix of surrealism with intense social realism that is a hall-mark of the collection as a whole.

Unlike later punk poets (a trend that really took off in the 1980s) John Cooper Clarke is not a posturing and ranting presence, though he no doubt inspired those and they have their place in the form, but a remote observer. In reading his words you get the feeling he’s been there and done that but this is the view of it from the outside, through those ever-present dark glasses, and in that he timelessly captures life in a way any other media or style couldn’t quite manage.

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Sound Guernsey: Sons of the Desert, Honest Crooks, Equilibrium, Cosmic Fish – The Fermain Tavern – 17/03/17

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert and friends

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

Sound Guernsey‘s March 2017 show had a very punk-ska flavour to things with their old formula of two young bands playing alongside two more experienced groups.

Cosmic Fish kicked off the show with a set of old-school pop-punk starting with Green Day’s Welcome To Paradise and continuing in similar fashion.

Compared to when I’d seen them throughout last year the trio have come on in leaps in bounds and, while they still have some way to go in terms of audience interaction and performing confidence, their renditions of songs by Blink-182, Good Charlotte and their ilk have a lot going for them.

Cosmic Fish

Cosmic Fish

Throughout the set there were a few moments where the energy found a good level that, in a perfect world, would have seen the audience get more energetic (they remained attentive but restrained) and it was the closing pair of Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle and Blink’s All The Small Things that closed the set in a high.

Another band who made a good impression last year and have built on that are Equilibrium.

Having been one of the young highlights of the early Sound events the band went on the play Liberation Day and the Vale Earth Fair amongst other things but like the openers they seemed to have stepped up their game once more.

Sticking with a similar pop-rock selection, including a couple of extra Red Hot Chilli Peppers tunes, the band had a much more relaxed energy from the off and this was clearly infectious.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

The aforementioned Chilli Peppers track Otherside was a highlight of the set as was their take at Blink-182’s Stay Together For The Kids where several members of the band swapped instruments.

Their takes on Basket Case and All The Small Things (also done earlier by Cosmic Fish) didn’t quite match the previous band’s but in all it was a good set and, with a little bit more power, Equilibrium will be a band worth keeping an eye on.

After a few months off following a very busy 2016, Honest Crooks were starting to gear up for an already busy summer season as they took to the Tav’s stage. While they were a little lose compared to past gigs it was all relaxed and fun as they mixed their own songs with some more ska oriented covers and they had the crowd going from the start.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a genuinely funny ‘play some Slayer moment’ (a rarity these days where that joke wore thin a decade ago) and great covers of Reel Big Fish’s Beer and Sublime’s Santeria it was really their own songs that provided the highlights and they certainly set the mood well for the night’s headliners.

Following the more modern ska warm up, Sons Of The Desert set out to provide a perfect primer for all thing two-tone and of the late 70s/early 80s UK ska scene. Spanning tracks from The Beat and The Selecter to Bad Manners and Madness it was prime upbeat skanking material all the way.

With the audience a sea of bouncing red fezzes thanks to the always manic and energetic Chris Pearson, it wasn’t long before everyone was on the dance floor and both the band and audience were having a whale of a time.

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

The band themselves are something of an eccentric mix of performers that come together brilliantly and create a huge sound with a three-piece brass section and Andy Coleman on the organ bolstering the usual rock band line up for a real authentic two-tone sound.

There were many highlights in the set but for me Lit Up Fatty, Too Much Too Young and set closer Night Boat To Cairo were the standouts before it all went a bit chaotic in the encore with the entire audience joining the band on stage for a skank to bring one of the most energetic Sound nights yet to a close on a major high.

One of my photos of the show was used along with a review from Becks Cox in The Guernsey Press:

Sound-review-March-2017-for-blog

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Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace with Dan Ozzi

Tranny Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace and Dan Ozzi book coverIn May 2012 Laura Jane Grace came out to the world as transgender via an interview in Rolling Stone magazine. At that point her band, Against Me!, had been going through a lot of transition themselves and this marked something of a watershed moment, not just for Grace herself, but for the band.

In her autobiography, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout (written with Dan Ozzi) Grace explores her life and career up to this point in startling honest fashion.

The book starts in 1985 with Grace (then known as Thomas James Gabel) seeing Madonna on TV and the wheels are set in motion for her life both in terms of her personal development and her musical ambitions – of course stylistically, the music at least would go in somewhat of a different direction.

I won’t go into detail of her story, this would be the autobiographical equivalent of spoilers, but it follows a natural chronology starting with her life as child of a military family regularly moving from place to place and never forming solid foundations, something that comes into play as she moves into being a touring musician.

Laura Jane Grace

Laura Jane Grace

As the title of the book suggests the story has two main threads that Grace weaves together seamlessly. Each chapter loosely follows a section of her career based around an album or tour, especially once we get to the point to the point of Against Me! releasing their debut album, …Reinventing Axl Rose.

This is a fairly standard conceit and obviously makes logical sense for a musicians memoir, but, what lifts it beyond that is the combination of newly written passages and sections lifted from Grace’s extensive journals.

What this does is extraordinary as we get the view of Grace now, with not only hindsight but an almost entirely changed life, and the in the moment thoughts and views of Gabel at the time.

While the view taken rarely changes it gives the book a duality that only serves to hammer home the experiences of Grace’s dysphoria that, it is evident, were present from her early youth (certainly at least since seeing that Madonna performance).

Against Me! circa 2013

Against Me! circa 2013

These journals are fascinating as its clear Grace documented everything, really putting the reader in the moment with her at many key moments both for herself and Against Me!.

This makes for a very intense and personal experience, like we are a fly on the wall, or even closer than that. With that we share many nights with her on the bench seats of vans or bunks of tour busses, as well as the back of a police car or two, in a way I’ve never read in any other musician’s life story.

As a fan of Grace’s music I did wonder if her personal story would take preference but I’m happy to say that it doesn’t as it is clear throughout just how inextricably linked these two things are, more than comes across in many other such stories. That said the most fascinating stuff comes with her personal story and quite how she came to terms with her gender dysphoria and how she dealt with it (or didn’t) at different stages of her life.

Grace as Gabel

Grace as Gabel

It never paints transitioning or anything associated with it as a quick fix or an easy process as some flippant reporting of such has, both in relation to her and others. In this it does a great job of expressing the feelings she felt and what she went through that, as a cis-male, was one of the most valuable insights I’ve had into this.

The story of the band is one we’ve heard many times before with members falling out, life on the road extremes and just what its like to support metallers Mastodon on tour when you’re in a band playing punk rock.

But with this we get a look into the American punk scene from the late 1990s to the late 2000s. While this view is obviously that of Grace herself, it is fascinating to see the DIY end of things and how it relates (or doesn’t) to the mainstream world of pop-punk and what comes between.

This just adds fuel to Grace’s resilient fire as she faces off against former fans who now brand her and the band sellouts and how some came back round as this part of her story neared its end.

The final chapter and epilogue of the book change things up as Gabel’s journals are no more and we get pure Grace, rounding off her story in suitably open-ended but still satisfying fashion (for now) as we find out about the writing and recording of the Transgender Dysphoria Blues album and the reconstruction of Against Me! as, arguably, even more of a potent force than they ever were before and certainly a more focussed one.

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

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard)

All this makes Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout not just one of the most satisfying autobiographies but one of the most satisfying books I’ve read.

Like much of Grace’s music its fast, raw and honest while provoking thought and opening up a wider world of experience than most other does not and, given the subjects it deals with, it offers an invaluable and important insight into something not everyone will experience but everyone should be able to at least try to understand all in a very personal way.

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Gimme Danger

Gimme Danger posterBefore The Offspring and Rancid, before The Sex Pistols and The Damned, before The Ramones and The New York Dolls one band stood out as a link from the garage rock of the mid-1960s to the supposed nihilistic shock of punk.

A quartet of misfits from Ann Arbour, Michigan now in many ways more famed for merely existing than for what they actually did during their initial brief explosion of a career; Iggy Pop, Rock Action, Ron Asheton and Dave Alexander, aka The Stooges.

With Gimme Danger filmmaker Jim Jarmusch explores the band’s formation, career and aftermath in a surprisingly open fashion with contributions from as many past members of the band as possible along with a few who were close to the band both personally and professionally.

Throughout though it remains clear, for better or worse, that this is a story centred on The Stooges’ focal point, beating heart and barely contained explosive generator, Jim Osterberg, otherwise known as Iggy Pop.

After an initial intro of the bands mid-1970s demise amidst a miasma of drugs and feedback, Gimme Danger takes a relatively chronological trip through the history of the band from Pop’s formative musical steps right up to their Raw Power-era reunion in the early 2010s.

Iggy Pop interviewed for Gimme Danger

Iggy Pop

For the most part this is navigated by Pop, interviewed in two striking locations of a trailer like the one where he grew up and an elaborate throne like seat in an ostentatiously appointed ‘rock star’ abode, tellingly accompanied by a pair of skulls that’s it hard to not link as the spiritual presence of the Asheton brothers.

Pop takes us through his uncontrollably hyperactive childhood, his discovery of the drums and his brief time spent as a jobbing drummer with a love of the blues in Chicago before the formation of what was to become The Stooges began.

This opening chunk of the movie is certainly its most interesting before all the standard machinations of the record industry and excessive life of a touring band come to the fore.

Here we get a real sense of not just the band’s reputation as performers but where they came from and how they came to make the noises they did.

Along with Pop we hear from Scott ‘Rock Action’ Asheton and the Asheton’s sister Kathy about their formation in the counterculture hub of the Mid West that Ann Arbour was, as an interest in blues, freeform jazz and garage rock all came to bear on the initial trio before Alexander joined their ranks and they began to make waves in nearby Detroit.

Iggy Pop and Jim Jarmusch Photo credit: Ken Settle

Iggy Pop and Jim Jarmusch

As a whole things are presented in pretty standard format; talking heads, archive footage and contemporary, scene setting news reel tell us the visual story.

With this comes a real sense of this band being something different and that comes across in the mesmerising story telling by Iggy. Backing him up are interesting asides from recent interviews with Scott Asheton and the band’s saxophone player Steve Mackay.

In this intro Iggy lays out the basic philosophy of the band which, it seems according to the singer at least, remains to this day as they moved into a squat in Detroit and lived as ‘real communists’ in a non-political, all shared communal sense.

Once the band are formed and encounter the MC5 its a non-stop ride with barely a pause for breath and Jarmusch creates a real atmosphere of this through the recording and touring around their self-titled debut and Fun House and then again around Raw Power and the total collapse of the band in its aftermath.

The Stooges In the Studio

The Stooges In the Studio

Here members come and go and interactions with the likes of Nico and David Bowie sweep by with little time for analysis which feels entirely fitting for the band and I’m not sure I’d want too much analysis of their primal noise which is typified by the astonishing blast of fuzz that opens I Wanna Be Your Dog and sets this passage in motion with a genuine shock cut feel.

A great montage shows us the influence the band has had on others, including some great editing together of the likes of No Fun being performer by various bands, before we head into the reunion years.

Much like the formation years this is an interesting section due to it being less well-known and less formulaic of so many music documentaries, but equally it doesn’t feel over dwelled upon as this is far from The Stooges creative zenith.

The Stooges on stage

The Stooges on stage

Rounding off with a great time warping montage of I Wanna Be Your Dog and a choice quote from Pop that again gets across his outsider philosophy, Gimme Danger is a no frills exercise in telling the story of a band without removing their mystique but still offering insight.

I think its fair to say a film like this has done well when the first thing I want to do afterwards is dive into the back catalogue at the loudest volume possible, with this Jarmusch gets the all important ‘groove and feel’ of The Stooges that is what marked them out and still makes their initial trio of records so impressive.

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