Tag Archives: punk

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.

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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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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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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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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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Halloween rocks at The Tav – The Fermain Tavern – 29/10/16

SugarSlam on Halloween

SugarSlam

For more than a decade The Fermain Tavern has been hosting a night of rock music on Halloween weekend and each year things have got more elaborate and, thanks to Noizemonkey, 2016 was no exception.

The Tav was decorated with a range of zombies, severed heads, cobwebs and more with walls of skulls surrounding the stage giving the whole thing a sense of a haunted ancient catacomb… with an electric chair in the corner just for the sake of it.

The live music kicked off with The Peppered Ant Legs playing what rumour suggests might be their last gig, but if so that didn’t seem to slow them down any as they launched into a duo of classic Black Sabbath songs that set the dark and spooky tone well. From there they did what they do best rocking their way through a set of hard rock classics spanning Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Kiss and more.

The Peppered Ant Legs

The Peppered Ant Legs

While they’re never likely to the world on fire this was probably the best I’ve seen this line up of the band and it went down well with the slowly growing audience, most of whom were resplendent in a range of Halloween costumes.

Heavy metal newcomers Blacksmith made their Tav debut next as they told the tale of a humble blacksmith hunting a demon for the kind of reason that he would, all through the medium of metal.

It might sound ridiculous but the band’s relaxed stage manner and chatty nature between the songs makes it about as un-pofaced as conceptual power metal can be.

Combined with this is the fact that they have some great songs grown from mighty riffs that they delivered excellently and sounded huge.

Blacksmith

Blacksmith

On top of this bass player Iain Baxter’s screams are always impressive while Adam Powell was on relaxed form as frontman and it’s always good to see him show off his electric guitar skill when he’s more known for playing acoustic covers in the corner of pubs.

While past Halloween shows had often veered towards the heavier stuff, this year things were a little more on the lighter side, particularly as Honest Crooks took to the stage and almost instantly had the dancefloor full moving bodies.

With Burning At Both End‘s Guitarist Martyn Brown handling bass duties in the absence of Charlie Holmes the set had a slightly different feel with less backing vocals but this didn’t seem to affect things too much.

Honest Crooks

Martyn with Honest Crooks

A lack of kazoos (and man mountain Bobby Battle to play it) gave some of the ska numbers a more direct and punky feel, and it maybe wasn’t as slick as their recent shows, but on a night like this with a real party atmosphere it made for a fun and punchy set.

SugarSlam continued the party spirit as it was clear from the off that the impressively costumed quartet were rather well ‘lubricated’.

While it seemed they may be suffering from the 11 o’clock set curse at the start as it went on the dancefloor soon got busy as their tactic of playing their originals songs first before going into full party mood with a set of classic covers paid off.

SugarSlam

Plumb and Ross of SugarSlam

With a somewhat impromptu ‘best dancer’ award given out, a highlight of the set came as the band made a point of celebrating their 25th birthday with a rendition of AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie before a now customary run at Ace Of Spades in tribute to Lemmy brought the show to a close on a raucous and rowdy high that once again showed The Tav is the place to be to celebrate Halloween in rocking style.

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My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade album cover10 years ago My Chemical Romance rode the crest of a wave that, for a brief moment, brought a kind of post-hardcore rock music into the mainstream amid hordes of black eyeliner sporting teens, unimpressed ‘true’ metallers and, predictably enough, British tabloid scaremongering about the cult of ‘emo’, as they released their arguable masterpiece, The Black Parade.

Following a launch announcement event in August at London’s world-famous (and now sadly demolished) Hammersmith Palais that saw hundreds of black clad members of their fan club, the MCRmy, take part in a mock funeral procession, the New Jersey quintet’s third album hit record stores on 23rd October 2006 and I still vividly remember picking up my copy that Monday morning with a real sense of excitement about what was contained therein.

All the press before the release, and the lead single Welcome To The Black Parade, had suggested that things had changed for the band.

The Black Parade at Hammersmith

The Black Parade at Hammersmith

In terms of line up this was the first album recorded with Bob Bryar behind the drums (though he had been the bands live drummer for most of the touring around Three cheers For Sweet Revenge) but it was also clear that piano and keyboards we’re going to be a big part of things and James Dewees (aka Reggie and the Full Effect) was unofficially drafted in too.

Sonically though the single suggested the vicious, hardcore infused assault of Three Cheers and their debut, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, was gone – replaced with a kind of prog-ish conceptual feel of sharply produced stadium rock, albeit still with the punk edge of their earlier material.

This came with a certain amount of consternation from fans who’d been following the band since their early days and the usual charges of ‘selling out’ were brought and roundly repelled by the band who, despite what might have been on the single and what the new matching marching band outfits suggested, continued with their incendiary, life affirming live shows such as an outing at Reading Festival, facing off a barrage of projectiles from die-hard Slayer fans.

My Chemical Romance - Reading 2006

Gerard Way and Bob Bryar at Reading Festival 2006

So it was in the midst of all that The Black Parade was released and seemed to instantly capture the wider imagine, outside of the more underground side of things, to create with a mix of punk, goth, glam and hard rock, what has felt like the last great surge for rock music rebellion.

But what of the album itself.

From the opening beeps of a heart monitor the whole thing has an undeniable concept feel echoing Ziggy Stardust, The Wall and others, though that concept is for the most part suitably vague. After the somewhat camp theatricality and bombast of intro track The End, Dead! blasts out the gates like a pop-punk/glam-rock assault building on the likes of Three Cheers’ big hit I’m Not Ok run through a filter of The Who’s Tommy.

From that point on the concept is present but never fully explained, having the feeling of the moments just before death when, supposedly, ones life flashes before ones eyes. Added to that though is the sense that, in many ways, this could be frontman Gerard Way’s story as the album followed a challenging period of rehab for him.

My Chemical Romance as The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance as The Black Parade

The next duo, This Is How I Disappear and The Sharpest Lives show the band haven’t lost any edge and, while sharper and more precisely produced, hark back to their past before Welcome To The Black Parade acts as something of a microcosm of the whole album with Queen like bombast standing alongside hyper speed punk guitars and gentle piano, all within five minutes.

The rest of album takes all of this and does more of the same charting a disjointed journey through the protagonists life, albeit with no real sense of trying to make a point, which I can’t help but feel maybe it should.

Highlights as the album goes on include Mama which has the feel of The Dresden Dolls, Panic! At The Disco and The Used going to war, as the album reaches its most potentially ridiculous point but what feels like exactly what the band was aiming for, as Liza Minnelli makes an appearance before we get some excellently stomping glam-punk on Teenagers.

Gerard during The Black Parade is Dead concert film

Gerard during The Black Parade is Dead concert film

The album’s only real mis-fire comes with the mawkish Cancer which if anything is too on the nose to be properly appreciated whether it was intending to be metaphorical or not.

Famous Last Words leaves the record on a powerful high, even if it feels the concept is all but forgotten, before hidden track Blood (that was to become something of an off-kilter fan favourite) brings it back in a strange way, rounding off an album that was arguably My Chemical Romance’s most free and artistic high point, away from the scene that spawned them but before worldwide media attention hyped them beyond all expectation.

In hindsight its hard not to see The Black Parade as the beginning of the end of My Chemical Romance, throughout the sprawling tour that followed they tried to balance things to please both their old fan base and the new but it never quite seemed to gel. As someone who happily falls between these two camps though, the live shows I witnessed in this period were fantastic, even if they lacked the straight forward power and presence of their earlier, smaller, tours.

My Chemical Romance as The Killjoys of Danger Days

My Chemical Romance as The Killjoys of Danger Days

While the follow-up tried to evoke a similar response it failed to live up to the challenge or the hype (though Danger Days still has some garage punk moments) making this album something of a special one-off.

The reaction to its 10th anniversary and the fact that it encouraged such devotion demonstrate the impact it had and, while the world of music has moved on, I can’t help but feel The Black Parade marks something of a moment in the final days before pop really became digital.

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PUNiK – F**k Yeah!!

PUNiK - Fuck Yeah!!I first properly encountered Japanese punk four-piece PUNiK when they headlined the first night the 2016 Chaos weekend and they made an instant impression. Their debut album, Fuck Yeah!! does just the same as it delivers intense, energetic blasts of no frills punk rock in twelve tight packages.

P.U.N.i.K!! starts the disc off as it means to continue with an assault of trebly, buzzing guitars, snappy, rumbling bass and ferocious drums, all with the band hollering over the top.

From there its much of the same, and all the stronger for it, as frontman Tagu rants in a mix of Japanese and broken English with bass man Nigel’s gruffer vocals providing a strong backing, while Makoto’s lead guitar provides some suitably manic solos and Osamu’s drums never let up.

Throughout about the only intelligible English words are (arguably) unprintable in most reputable publications but set the scene and really tell you all you need to know with ‘Fuck you its rock ’n’ roll’ (in Fuck’N’Roller!!) and ‘Got no money, got no future’ (in Punk Bomb!!) being two of the more choice moments.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

Stand Up!! breaks things up a bit with a slightly slower, more bass driven feel, before Hello!! gives the album its one ‘conventional single’ type track that, if you’re looking for a more accessible example of what PUNiK can do, is a spot on piece of pop-rock run through a scuzzy punk ’n’ roll filter.

The production sounds just the right side of four enthusiastic drunk men in a room with some microphones, evoking a sound familiar to anyone who’s listened to their share of DIY music from the 1970s and 80s while the songs at times echo The Damned, The Ramones and Sex Pistols in the best of ways.

While the energy and power of PUNiK is certainly best experienced live, Fuck Yeah!! captures the band’s gang like spirit making for a record that is a raw and filthy pleasure.

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