GigswithIvan: a grey-haired gig goer

I’m a 59 year old grey haired gig goer. I get to a lot of gigs and festivals in a variety of places. The last five years or so it’s cranked up a notch with the help of a similarly (even more gigaholic) enthusiastic mate and my gig-loving wife.

I seem to be on one massive tour and keep squeezing in the music where I can.

Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper with The Hollywood Vampires at Birmingham Resorts Arena (NEC)

I thought I could leave a blog trail as I go on my gigaholic wanderings – the bands – my photos – the venues – the festivals – bits on travel and parking – the odd handy pub and all that stuff.

With Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs at The Roundhouse

All photos are my own unless I mention otherwise. I use a Panasonic compact pocket-sized zoom mostly, a TZ60. Unobtrusive and only ocasionally not permitted, and that’s where there is a no phones or cameras rule which I always abide by. I occasionally take a better Nikon bridge camera to outdoor gigs, especially festivals so the pics there are best quality. Then there are gigs when I forget my camera, run out of battery etc 🙄

Keith Flint of The Prodigy at Victorious Festival

My mobile phone camera is pretty bang average, on an older Samsung A6, but I do take an occasional video clip if it isn’t going to get in anyone’s way – I like a pillar or a wall behind me. In Spring 2022 I started putting these on a YouTube channel. It saves memory on the WordPress account if nothing else but is getting hundreds of views in its own right, occasionally over a thousand. Link to my Grey-Haired Gig Goer channel.

The Covid pandemic hit activities hard but through my blogs you can see the various attempts to keep gig-fit and measures brought in during this awful period in our history.

Keep rocking!

Gary Numan – Bristol O2 Academy

W.A.S.P. – live in Bristol

W.A.S.P. at O2 Bristol Academy 23.3.2023 with South of Salem supporting

Just a brief note of my trip to educate myself with a bit of historic heavy rock.

The frontman Blackie Lawless (guitar and vocals) is the only remaining original from over 40 years ago when the band formed, in LA in 1982.

I knew very little about W.A.S.P. when this trip was first mentioned as a possible. A name from reading Sounds music paper back in the 80s or maybe a peep at a copy of Kerrang magazine. I had a little refresher and thought it would be a shame to miss seeing this ‘shock-rock’ heavy metal band of ill repute on what could be the final tour.

A sell-out at the O2 Academy Bristol tonight (link for my blog on venue details), a filthy wet night, and the four of us here opt for the right-hand lower platform once inside after doors open. (With gig buddy Dave and seasoned heavy metal fans Neil/Max and Clair tonight.)

Support band South of Salem are from Bournemouth and they are pretty good. Traditional hard and heavy, rocky. I’m impressed given I’m hearing them cold.

South of Salem – support
Joey Draper – South of Salem – O2 Bristol Academy

I see they are playing at the Teddy Rocks Festival, near Blandford in April so I will look them out again when up there.

Before W.A.S.P. appear, the stage is prepared. Banners revealed with a theme of an old horror circus, two screens to show old footage and a large and very ornate mic stand. This centrepiece is almost ridden at times by frontman Lawless.

Blackie Lawless – W.A.S.P.

I was never going to know most their material but after some Spotify research I was ready for Wild Child which I caught with my camera video. (My YouTube channel link.)

W.A.S.P. drummer Asquiles Priester

It’s heavy, heavy metal with all the trimmings. Most of the crowd seem to know most of the songs and it is an accessible sound though this. Mainman Lawless plays guitar with his back to the crowd for short periods and from time to time ‘mounts’ the mic stand skeletal construction and swings back on it, hanging on to the handle bars. Who came up with this one?

Blackie Lawless

It’s a gloomy light and the band are largely backlit – hence a bit of a challenge to get any decent pics.

Post break and into a three-song encore Animal: F*ck Like a Beast gets a big roar – how classically heavy rock eh – and the 1980s parental control lobby was illustrated through news film footage of the time. In relative terms it all seems like good clean fun these days.

The big song we all have to wait until the end for is I Wanna Be Somebody. Everyone knows that one. A Who song is thrown in to the mix as another encore: The Real Me.

They have some big gigs following this one and the set is a compact one and we are out into the night quite early. My musical education has been stretched a little more. I can still hear and we are off for a last pint. Rock on.

Morrissey – live in London

Morrissey at Hammersmith Apollo 19.3 2023

Morrissey seems to have derailed himself in some people’s eyes. His individuality means he doesn’t sing to everyone’s tune these days but I won’t desert this lyrical genius at this late stage. His shows still sell out in minutes and there is an encampment of fans waiting under Hammersmith flyover, opposite the Apollo by lunchtime. It’s still big news when Mozzer is in town.

No support band tonight – Morrissey and his band. Before they go on, some handpicked records with black and white photos on the screens to illustrate – icons of screen and stage. We are in the centre, half way up the balcony. The huge balcony in this 5000 capacity crowd. In all my visits here I have never seen a band from the balcony, always preferring the stalls, without the seats if possible. I don’t mind my seat. I’m knackered. This is day three of a three-night run of gigs in the capital.

The Hammersmith Eventim Apollo

We’ve had a trip down to the pubs upstream from Hammersmith Bridge: The Old Ship, the ever popular Dove and the friendly staff of The Rutland Arms. Always lovely. After the longest snake of queue I’ve ever seen here (half way down to the Riverside Studios)  we’ve had a beer in the beautiful Apollo art deco bar and paid a hefty price for it. I’m now happy to sit.

Downstairs bar  at  The Apollo

Excitement, real excitement, as the 63-year-old starts with Our Frank from the Kill Uncle album, and not much of a wait before the first Smiths song: the urgent Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before.

Morrissey and band in Hammersmith

While the band is lit by wandering spotlights, Morrissey appears to be performing in near shadows. This must be by design – a sheepish intro? A man tired of the knocking and gently reintroducing himself?

Irish Blood, English Heart and Mozzer is getting going. The mic lead is being whipped out. I Wish You Lonely: what a wonderfully mean lyric, sung with such glee. The man’s voice still has all its strength. I grab a video with my pocket zoom – steady, perched up here and not in anyone’s way – Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings (on my YouTube Channel).

“Sure enough, the telephone rings
Who wants my money now?
Otherwise the telephone never would ring
No oh oh oh”

Is that how Morrissey sees himself now? Only there to be exploited.

Balcony view – pretty good

Quite a mix tonight. No one album has much focus – a few songs from many. Four Smiths songs in total. Girlfriend in a Coma brings a short blast of pop-misery. They don’t write them like that anymore (link is to a video stored on my YouTube channel). Half a Person – still the height of genius.

It’s two anthems from Viva Hate, that first solo album, that pump the atmosphere up most. Half way through, Everyday Is Like Sunday (is that the retirement singalong that awaits me I wonder) and nearing the end with Suedehead. I’ve played that song so loudly and so often over the years – often driving. By this time Morrissey is in full flow. Most of the huge, seated balcony crowd are on their feet. The front of the stalls crowd are grabbing, leaping and being restrained. Just a grasp, a touch and over the barriers and out they go.

He reminds us that this is ‘Mozzer’s Day’ while giving a nod to Mothers everywhere.

He returns to the roars of appreciation with one more Smiths number: Sweet and Tender Hooligan from the Louder than Bombs album. He rips his shirt to reveal his maturing torso – not too old yet for those rock and roll theatrics.

I’ll be back. Behave yourself Mozzer.

Back in the day – Morrissey and The Smiths

Back Autumn 1983 I moved into a shared house in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, with some student mates. On the back of the front door in a letter rack was a seven inch square cardboard envelope for  a previous occupant – he used to review records for a magazine. We left it there for weeks and eventually opened it – we had no forwarding address. It was This Charming Man by The Smiths. Me and one of the guys (Nige) loved it and we agreed to buy a second copy and go halves so we could have one each.

After that came What Difference Does it Make, then albums and my first Smiths gig in 1984. It was a free outdoor one in Jubilee Gardens on London’s South Bank, put on by the GLC (Greater London Council). Morrissey with his fake hearing aid, NHS specs and flowers in his back pocket. That was the start of The Smiths for me and I’ve never left Morrissey and Marr alone since.

My ticket from an early Smiths gig

Later in ’84 I saw them at The Tower Ballroom, next to a reservoir, in the North of Edgbaston, Birmingham. Next gig was after The Queen is Dead album was released in Summer 1986.

NME reports from G-Mex 1986

The event was at the G-Mex Centre and celebrated the tenth anniversary of the start of punk. The Smiths came on at 6pm. It was still light but with a late-night drunken rowdiness. Morrissey waved that Queen is Dead placard around in a frantic celebration. That must have been their height I suppose.

My ticket from Festival of the Tenth Summer

I stuck with it after they split up and Morrissey went solo, going to Leicester to see him in 1991 but left it another 14 years before I bought a resale ticket and drove down to Plymouth, from East Dorset, to see him again. He still was a huge draw. By 2015 at Bournemouth BIC and 2018 at The London Palladium, Morrissey had become a more mature showman but going to these gigs was still a big event.

Here we are again. This time Hammersmith – this would have been the handiest venue in my school days and early pre-Smiths gig going. Back then it was always seats downstairs and the ability to strip them out these days is most welcome.

The Lathums – live at The London Roundhouse

The Lathums at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London on 18.3.2023 with Ruby J supporting

Here we are again at the architectural dream that is The Roundhouse. The 21st Century arts centre upgrade to the venue where in 1977 The Stranglers recorded much of their Live X-Cert album and that was once a shed to turn train engines around in. The building is a beauty and the inside is illustrated here in an earlier Sisters of Mercy blog from a few years ago.

The Roundhouse peeps out on to Chalk Farm Road

My last trip here was to see Sparks (April 2022) and before that The Rifles (October 2019), recorded and released as a live album. Blog on The Rifles (What I didn’t mention in that was I proposed to my now wife Sally during that one.😁)

Plaque on the outside of
The Roundhouse

Pre-gig options

Camden is your oyster… and The Roundhouse is just north-west of it. So many options. As you come up from around Camden Town tube there are so many good pubs; there are the food stalls in the market and the Vietnamese restaurant Thanh Binh just north of the bridge. Further up, or if coming out of the tube at Chalk Farm station, there is The Pembroke Castle, with decent outside space, just out of the way over the main railway line. The Muang Thai restaurant on the main drag opposite the venue is another great spot to eat and wait for doors to open or queues to subside.

The Roundhouse viewed from Regent’s Park Road Railway bridge

I used to aim for Joe’s Bar on the main drag but it’s all closed up, making The Enterprise even more rammed than it might be on a gig night, good boozer though it is. On this trip we were a bit early so stopped in Powerplant in the afternoon: vegan heaven, with some decent canned ales in the fridge. (The ales in The Roundhouse are pretty good mind and service works.)

Near and Far, back down across the junction from Morrisons, was a new place we tried later and sat watching the busy street from the big front window. More sparkly and cocktails but different and there was room early on.

Tonight’s support – Ruby J

Ruby J – pocket zoom shot at The Roundhouse

I was keen to get in on time to see Ruby J again after her Southampton support slot with Red Rum Club. (My blog here.) She’s good, really good, but her brilliant voice was a little bit masked rather than enhanced by the band here at The Roundhouse. It’s a big space. Maybe I should have gone down the front – we were downstairs standing by the mixing desk – but it felt distant.

Ruby J and band – supporting

Some songs more soulful and some more bluesy – “who wants to hear some blues?” she asks. Pleased to see her on this bigger stage but you could not appreciate her voice so well I didn’t think.

The Lathums

Indie rock popsters The Lathums are one of the top bands out there in recent years in my book. I first saw them in 2021 at Victorious Festival on the Castle Stage. The air of casual brilliance created by frontman Alex Moore and the band, made for such a friendly feel. They just seemed instantly likeable.

The Lathums’ Alex Moore
on the Castle Stage
at Victorious Festival 2021

From Wigan, and they are very Wigan: the vocals doing for Wigan what Arctic Monkeys did for Sheffield. The band met at music college and were thrown together for a college piece of work, to be a band and make some music. They just clicked and carried on. The one change in the four-piece line up since 2018 is Matty Murphy joining on bass this year.

I bought their Live at Blackpool Tower album after that and later that year their debut album How Beautiful Life Can Be went straight in at number one in the album chart. The title sums the sound up and attitude….positive. The jingle jangle guitar, soft sounding vocals and poetic lyrics bring inevitable thoughts of The Smiths.

Their second album From Nothing to a Little Bit More came out earlier this year – I had it on pre-order. Another cracker and the self-effacing title sums up the image they project.

The Lathums – tonight at The Roundhouse

The crowd are singing along with 80s indie classics. It’s a sell-out. It’s a Saturday night. It’s a big one. This is what it’s all about.  On come The Lathums. No punching the air; no pomp; no rock’n’roll build up. They breeze in, relaxed: the set has almost a 50s lounge feel with a few large plants and a yellowy light.

Alex Moore – The Lathums

Alex Moore greets the excited crowded like a smooth northern game show host – I’m waiting for a ‘great, smashing, super’ – this musical anti-hero is dressed in the height of anti-fashion. Look at that shirt collar. Has he been plundering his grandad’s wardrobe or has a fashion designer got to him. Perfect. I think of Jarvis Cocker and of seeing Morrissey with his NHS specs and hearing aid for the first time.

Saturday night at The Roundhouse

Say My Name, a single from the new album, opens the set – distinctive Strokes-like guitar scratching start.  It’s one of those albums we’ve all waited for and digested quickly on arrival, so it’s familiar and the crowd join in.

Alex Moore, from Wigan

Top songs appear early on: Fight On, a 2020 single which is on the first album, followed by the title track of the How Beautiful Life Can Be album. This must be their anthem now – sums them up.

Alex politely and calmly introduces the songs, including ‘a new song we’ve been working on’ but before everyone calms themselves, the opening bars of perhaps their best track from the first album: The Great Escape. Light sparkles around the ornate ironwork and domed roof.

The inclusion of John Lennon’s (Just Like) Starting Over was a surprise… I think to most of the audience. Did they know it? We wondered.

Nearing the end of the main set – the end of a beautiful hour – was Rise and Fall, from the new album and captured here on my YouTube channel with a crowd view.

The Lathums – mutual appreciation at The Roundhouse

They return for three more songs, ending with Artificial Screens from the first album. Another melodic fuzzy guitar opening, Alex’s vocal range exhibited, lyrics clear and audible and the lead guitar goes off meandering behind before taking over. Have a listen: Artificial Screens on YouTube.

Gigs don’t get much better. The Lathums are a lovely big noise right now.

The Skids – live at The 100 Club

The Skids at 100 Club, Oxford Street, London on 17.3.2023

St. Patrick’s Day in the capital and a chance, while up here for a few gigs, to catch one of my favourite bands, The Skids, at the iconic 100 Club. Back in the day, they never played here (Richard Jobson mentions later) and I didn’t get here either. I’ve been catching up a bit since.

This is my eighth Skids gig since they reformed for the Burning Cities album in 2018. Not a lot more I can add to my previous blogs below but I will mark the evening with a few notes.

Skids live in Islington blog

Pilgrimage to Dunfermline blog

I met up with a few old mates in The Champion pub beforehand – Big Gra and Dave (DSy). My pre-100 Club pub of choice. Lovely Windows. Sam Smiths’ boozer and a tasty stout.

The beer and chat kept us in the pub – seats for our ageing limbs irresistible – and we skip support band Voodoo Radio. About 8.45pm we stroll round to the 100 Club and guitarist Jamie Watson was outside having a vape break before going on stage. Had a chat and pic, with the classic but easily missable 100 Club sign behind us.

Wife Sally, Big Gra, Jamie Watson and a Grey-Haired Gig Goer

This is the first of two sell-out gigs here for The Skids, marking their 45th anniversary, one for frontman Richard Jobson to own as the original member.

Inside, and down the stairs into this famous basement, we go round to the far left and take a fairly unobstructed side-on view. This has the advantages of easy bar access, a more relaxed experience and some in front are seated at tables so no view blocking. I wandered around the front for a few snaps later.

Skids play The 100 Club

The Skids are very much morphed with Big Country these days with both bands sharing three members on the guitars. I had to check out the drummer position at the moment – it’s Nick Hernandez. Since The Skids reformed in 2018 the original drummer Mike Baillie and bassist Bill Simpson have gone.

Jamie Watson – guitar
Bruce Watson and Jobbo

Charade to start the set of familiar faves. Nothing from Burning Cities. There is one new song tonight, the single Destination Düsseldorf and I am looking forward to that new album later in the year (June). It’s got a typically Skids chorus to singalong to.

Jobbo in full flight

The Saints Are Coming is a great song. Jobson reminds us that despite being covered by U2 and Green Day it made him nothing – essentially used as a charity record.


Out of Town was a particularly good one to hear, amongst the other singles packed into the set like Working for the Yankee Dollar, Into the Valley (YouTube clip 100 Club), Woman in Winter, Masquerade, Circus Games….so many. Another boisterous Skids gig is being enjoyed by those in this historic venue tonight. You can’t beat Friday nights out like this.

Skids – 100 Club – St Patrick’s Day

Great setlist. There is even the great blemish of TV Stars and the chants of Albert Tatlock, added to these days with “Boris Johnson, what a w*nk*r”. Then to end the storming version of The Clash’s Complete Control, as appears on the 2021 album Songs From a Haunted Ballroom – The Skids supported the Clash right back at the start of all this.

A Skids gig always delivers and we can all wander off happy. I’ll be seeing them again soon I hope… not tomorrow for the second 100 Club night though.

On the way out I spot Spizz and he can’t resist a pic 😄 never mind me eh. (Spizz will be up at Rebellion Festival in August again this year, as will Big Country.)

Spizz the legend of all bands Spizz

(Plenty of clips on YouTube from the night. Thanks Willy Billiams for yours.)

Slow Readers Club – live on board Thekla, Bristol

Slow Readers Club at Thekla, Bristol 11.3.2023 with Andrew Cushin supporting

This is my first visit to Thekla since starting these blogs, and the first since the recent refurbishment. It’s a novel venue… on board Thekla, a small cargo ship built in 1958 which ran aground and was later recovered, abandoned and revived to live again in Bristol docks as a music venue from 1983. It remains moored up – don’t worry, you’re not going to sea.

Thekla’s bow, from the pre-gig queue

My previous boardings were for The Rezillos and a Secret Affair gig, that one with tickets at 1979 prices. These were both pre-plague.

The good ship Thekla

The capacity of the venue in the main hold is 400. It pays to get there when the gangplank is open to board as once filled the narrow long ship shape means it can be hard to wrestle near the front, especially carrying a few drinks.

The small balcony

There is a small balcony which gives a great view if you can get up there and hold your position. There is lounge upstairs and the toilets are up there also but the venue bar is at the rear of the hold where the bands play.

The bar just after gangplank opened

A really good selection of canned Moor’s craft ales with some on tap along with other ale, cider and lager. The fridges brim with tasty ales and more.

The venue is a nightclub as well so keep an eye on those start times as they can be early with a curfew, so as to let the kids and night owls on in their glad rags… or maybe excessively ripped jeans eh.

For before and after, The Hole in the Wall pub is handy (nice to sit outside in Summer) but let’s face it Bristol has a lot for everyone. The two smart restaurants near Thekla are both very good, with The Riverstation being a real waterside treat: evening menu, daytime bar menu or just a coffee on the deck.

One thing dawning on me, however much I prioritise gig-going, is the mounting cost of a Bristol gig. It’s a great city but with £17 to park at the Premier Inn and £18 for the relatively recent congestion charge for an overnight stop, it’s not a great start. It is also a bugger to drive to (2¼ hours to drive 70 hard weaving miles) and the rail network doesn’t assist a Poole-Bristol passenger. Driving to a convenient station to come in from maybe the next test.

A few cans of Moor’s Stout onboard and we are ready for Andrew Cushin – solo with his guitar. He does play with a band as well but not tonight. Unmistakably Geordie, he is getting excellent reviews and my Spotify trawling means we make sure we are here on time.

Andrew Cushin – tonight’s support act

He has confidence, humour, youth, a strong voice and some great songs. I can hear some Noel Gallagher in there, well both Gallaghers. (He has supported Noel live and done some recording work with him.)

Andrew Cushin – Bristol Thekla

A taste here with You Don’t Belong recorded on my mobile and saved to my YouTube channel. There’s a bit of crowd babble but you can get the feel. What a top start to the night.

The passengers, I mean crowd, push forward a bit more and fill the gaps as Slow Readers Club anticipation heightens. There are Manchester accents – some have travelled, and not from the South Coast.

They have become gig regulars for us – with wife Sally tonight who loves ’em – and previous Slow Readers excursions are noted here:

Oxford O2 Academy

Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

Slow Readers Club – Thekla

This tour is for the new album Knowledge Freedom Power, but the set is a good mix with just five songs from that one. First is Modernise which I captured from the starboard wall of the hold: link to Grey-Haired Gig Goer YouTube channel. A lot of synth beat on this one and quite a build-up before they come on stage.

Aaron Starkie and James Ryan (bass) – Slow Readers Club – Thekla

Hazy, colourful and dark is how I would describe the lighting most of the time, giving a more clubby feel.

Front man Aaron Starkie

Their sets get better and better as the albums collection grows – six albums now. Block Out The Sun is a mid-set favourite tonight for me. Aaron Starkie has his stage actions which involve Jim Kerr-like gesticulation and makes a set a more artistic sight.

You sing

It’s another excellent performance of their indie pop rock work. The new album does crank up the electro-pop aspects. The crowd love it. They know the stuff, especially the likes of the older On the TV, near the end of the main set.

The encores are the title track of the new album Knowledge Freedom Power, sandwiched between the now familiar fave I Saw A Ghost and the anthemic Lunatic. What a tasty sandwich to finish.

Aaron Starkie

The post-pandemic return to Thekla is complete. One of Britain’s great quirky venues and so many more to visit.

The Levellers – live & acoustic in Poole

The Levellers at Lighthouse, Poole 10.3.23 with The Wilswood Buoys supporting

Any band playing at what is my local venue will grab my attention. ‘Lighthouse’, as seems is the current term, is an arts and entertainment centre with, amongst other facilities, a 1476 seater main concert hall. This is where The Levellers played.

It isn’t on the usual gig circuit, so any rock/pop/folk acts stopping by raise an eyebrow and with no add on travel or accommodation costs it makes it an attractive option. Before my time here everyone played The Lighthouse but these days it’s more bespoke and my blog of Nick Cave’s performance gives more details of pre-gig options.

These blogs sometimes focus more on a new venue, perhaps dwelling on my history of seeing a band or visiting a venue, the photos or video clips, but some are more of a diary note of my grey-haired gig-going experience. This is more the latter. The Lighthouse usually has a no photos policy which limits my focus but I go with the flow and just whip my phone out a few times. No camera tonight

I don’t remember seeing The Levellers before, although I’m sure they must have played a festival I was at over the last 35 years. I find their brand of rousing folk-rock easy to get on with and the 1991 album Levelling the Land is one I particularly warm to. I have no albums by them so Spotify is my source and without it I doubt I would have got near paying £38.50 plus bits for a ticket for this show.

The support band is the Essex duo Wilswood Buoys, two guys with acoustic guitars and some punchy folk-rock tunes. Perfect warm up.

By the time the nine members of The Levellers came on stage the auditorium is just about full – the balcony is open but I can’t see how many are up there.

Well I can see these two – Concert Hall balcony
A fully used stage – The Levellers in Poole

There are obviously a lot of Levellers followers who have travelled into town for this and this lifts the atmosphere, and later means the crowd gets up to dance and wave more than is often found here. The rowdiest I’ve seen since the Simple Minds ‘acoustic’ visit about five years ago. Remember this venue is the home of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Mark Chadwick – The Levellers

The vocals are a little quiet for the nine instruments and but it was a good noise and it picked up. I would like to see a non-acoustic set now and I do wonder how different it would be. Maybe they would just stand up and shout a bit more between songs eh.

The audience start to rise as the band remain seated and acoustic

I recognise Liberty Song early on in the setlist but the lack of depth in my Levellers knowledge was obvious – it was enjoyable all the same. By the end the mood was celebratory – The Levellers had come to Poole. I grabbed a phone video of Hope Street, one of the encores which is on my Grey-Haired Gig Goer YouTube channel.

The celebratory end to The Levellers at Poole Lighthouse

Bullet for My Valentine – live in Southampton

Bullet for My Valentine at Southampton Guildhall O2 8.3.2023 with Jinjer and Atreyu supporting

My slow gig-going start to 2023 has continued into March but on a cold rainy Wednesday night I’ve made the hour’s drive to Southampton – fortunately the snow didn’t quite make this stretch of the South Coast despite the Yellow Alerts and fear inducing forecasts.

This is a solo forage to see one of the few bands I’ve bought albums by that I had never seen live: heavy metal from South Wales in the form of Bullet for My Valentine, from Bridgend. I bought a few of their CDs around 20 years ago in the bargain rack at Wimborne Square Records and after a few years lost touch. The occasional heavy metal band thrown into my largely indie-rock mix comes from teenage influences. Also the heavy metal – punk/post-punk/Oi! divide has always seemed more blurred than many see it.

Fever and Scream Aim Fire

The venue is a familiar one – more here in my Southampton Guildhall venue blog – and for this one I am up in the balcony. Ageing feet are relieved.

Atreyu – first on

An early 7pm start with California metalcore band Atreyu. I don’t know them but they’ve been going 25 years. Lead singer (not lead growly singer or ‘dirty vocals’) Brandon Seller rallies the crowd and gets the ‘circle pit’ going. Did I hear that right? Mosh pit surely. Anyway an enthusiastic rotating mosh.

The moshing of the circle pit – continued later with main band

From my rear perch I grabbed a video of Atreyu with my pocket zoom camera which on my YouTube channel: Ex’s and Oh’s.

Battle Drums stands out mid-set, a 2002 oldie – I’m hearing the Oi! metal crossover. The half-hour set motors along and they finish with the notable Blow. Excellent reception for the first band on.

From Ukraine – Jinjer

Intriguing, odd and humbling to be introduced to a band from Donetsk, Ukraine. That sudden thought of what are we doing here enjoying ourselves. This is Jinjer – they’ve been going over 10 years.


Lead singer Tatiana Shmailyuk has a voice that growls fiercely at regular intervals but between growls is a bit lost in the guitars.  Sporting some chunky boots and a pink leotard she leaps between the stage front podiums but I’m lost in this and nearly drift off.

A break and a wander downstairs – not sure if you can always do this if you have a balcony seat. I return with my pricey pint of water: rock’n’roll eh.

On come Bullet for My Valentine
Matthew Tuck – BFMV are on

Bullet for My Valentine (BFMV) are on at 9.30pm. “Let’s get this f*cking floor moving. Bounce, bounce, bounce!” yells frontman Matthew Tuck and the circle pit (yes metal mosh pit) was off again, the occasional cloud of vanilla and caramel vapes dispersing to give that dusty stampede look. (The sickly sweet vape smells are everywhere. So funny watching a furtive under the jacket puff preceding the huge stinking cloud above.)

BFMV – a vape puff from the circle/mosh pit

The lighting and sound experience is so classically heavy metal. Guitar, bass, drums, vocals/ guitar, loud, fit inducing lights and rock’n’roll. I can see why I picked up on them back when I did.

BFMV – Guildhall Southampton

Frontman Matthew Tuck (guitar and vocals) and lead guitar man Michael Paget have been in BFMV since the start in 1998. Bassist Jamie Mathia and Jason Bowld on drums were later additions. Not sure if they share the band’s Bridgend heritage.

Matthew Tuck (vocals and guitar)
Lead guitar – Michael Paget – just look at that guitar

It’s an easy heavy metal listen but despite having those two albums I couldn’t say I knew them well enough: they might have only had a few plays in the last 10 years. The two I recognised were the title track of the Scream Aim Fire album and Your Betrayal which I would have said was their anthem – the best. That was one of the three encores after what seemed like an early break. Yup, well worth the trip and for me a bit of a heavier diversion from the norm.


Florence and the Machine – live in Bournemouth

Florence and the Machine at Bournemouth International Centre 6.2.2023 with Willie J Healey supporting

This is a rescheduled gig from November last year. I did have a look at getting tickets then but without enough urgency before it sold out. Unfortunately Florence (Welch) found she’s had been performing on a broken foot and the Bournemouth gig was rearranged to tonight, a Monday, not so popular, so some tickets became available and here we are. Sold out again though.

With the travelling about I do for gigs and the fact that Bournemouth often misses out on the bigger tours, I thought Florence and the Machine seemed a good option. Ever since she/they appeared on the scene I’ve had a casual interest, nearly going to a few gigs while abroad but left it or they sold out (Amsterdam; Chicago). I did see the first tour for the Lungs album in September 2009 at Bournemouth O2 Academy… hmm that really is a while ago now.

The latest album, Dance Fever, is a good listen but my familiarity with the material is limited to that and Lungs along with singles played on the radio. They/she are always a good watch live on tv so here goes.

I noted earlier that Florence’s ‘Machine’ is a constant of Rob Ackroyd on guitar, Tom Monger on harp and Isabella Summers on keyboards with an additional selection of changing musicians. Isabella Summers has clearly been an essential ingredient of the sound and the band. That still leaves me wondering if we should refer to seeing Florence as seeing the band or Florence Welch. I thought it was the former but after tonight I realise it’s more the latter.

Bournemouth International Centre – The BIC

It is what it is. An unremarkable, tolerable, adaptable Windsor Hall holding up to 6,500 and selling expensive unremarkable beer, if you want to queue for ages for your prize in a plastic beaker, including the ghastly two pinter.

Plenty of eateries and bars to choose from out there in Bournemouth if you are out for a full evening, or weekend even. Sixty Million Postcards is 100 yards away (I still like a yard 😁) and the lovely is Brewdog is a short walk, as is the big Wetherspoons, The Moon on the Square. If you’re happy to pay BIC prices you may as well go somewhere smart with some style and atmosphere: the 1812 bar over the road. Go for it. Have a cocktail.. it might even still be happy hour if you’re lucky.

More seasoned ale drinkers may like to enjoy Poole Hill Brewery or the wonderful selection in the Goat and Tricycle, worth the half mile walk from the BIC.

Tonight’s Gig

Support – Willie J Healey

We are in for the support act Willey J Healey. This feels more of a delaying tactic than a warm up. Just not my sort of thing I guess, describing himself as a ‘marriage between guitar and funk’. Maybe better in a nightclub gig. There’s a whiff of Jamiroquai in the air.

It’s all standing downstairs this evening, so the support slot is at least a chance to shuffle around and find some shorter people to stand behind – a giant returns from the bar and his partner smiles as we quickly shift. He is the biggest, tall and solid, guy I have ever seen. I seem to have homed in on front right again here. These days the speakers are often so elevated you don’t have to worry about being blasted if too near the front.

Florence and her machine appear just after 8.30pm. The audience is strong on women, many young groups. Lots of flowery head bands and long hair. When the show starts I can hear people around be singing every word, even on the new album tracks. Florence is their icon and through the set her words and attitude illustrate her role model persona.

The band, her ‘machine’, could not be more backstage. She has most of the stage to dance and float around with the other musicians tucked away to each side, a backing vocalist to front right of the band. Florence has a stunning green fairytale sparkly dress on which flows with her. The rear stage centre piece is a huge mass of imitation candles in a feature resembling a gothic horror filmset. Aside from that no gimmicks, no exotic lightshows, tickertape or fireworks. This show is Flo.

Flo and the candles

Twelve tracks from the latest album Dance Fever, which everyone seems to know well: even I have rehearsed that one in anticipation. Ship to Wreck is the first diversion to earlier work and it’s only half an hour in before my top pick The Dog Days are Over (I used to have four little beauties and mine are I think) from the first album Lungs is welcomed with a roar.

Florence appeals for some time to put the phones away and absorb the moment – love the people around you. It works. A few songs on and the phone free atmosphere is allowed to evaporate and later it’s positively phones out time with Florence wanting to see them.

Phone games

Morning Elvis is a new album goody, followed by two from the High as Hope album: June and the eating disorder anthem Hunger. Great song.

Florence at the BIC

The crowd are absorbed in the glowing Flo performance. It is reminiscent of Kate Bush, not that I saw her live. At the height of the set she disappears from view. What’s happening? Then she appears, floodlit at the back of the hall, near the mix desk singing up at the balcony front row. Then a flurry of activity as some of the crowd security team come quickly through, towards us with torches and followed by the floodlit Florence. She pauses for split seconds as she skips through gracefully touching and greeting fans including the girl directly in front of us. I could have fainted for her. Her (school) friends are suitably impressed with this baptism as Flo floats back to the stage to huge cheers.

With the audience in her power now the get down low appeal comes… lower lower… blimey my knees are creaking. This stoop is the best I can do Flo… up up up… at last, before I pull anything, and this happy place is dancing.

Up up – Flo worship

She ends the set with one more, Restraint, from the latest album. A short break. Thanks and introductions to the band and three encores from the back catalogue: Never Let Me Go and Shake it Out from the Ceremonials album (2011) and Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up) from my more familiar Lungs album territory.

I’m really pleased I made it to this Florence experience, nearly 14 years on since that first album tour. She has earned a special place in British pop music history with her uniqueness.

(As you will have gathered, I left my pocket zoom camera at home again 🙄)

Coach Party – live in Southampton

Coach Party at The Joiners, Southampton 31.1.2023 with Girl Scout and Fiona Lee supporting

It’s Independent Venue Week and The Joiners in Southampton is as good an independent venue as any to be in. Tonight, I am following up on seeing Coach Party at Victorious Festival, down the road in Southsea last Summer.

Coach Party at Victorious Festival August 2022

They played on Saturday afternoon on the Castle Stage, the second stage, at Victorious Festival 2022. (Blog of that one here.) I’d given them a few plays on Spotify and the live set sparked more interest. I said I’d be back for more and when the tour was announced I was quick to book a Southampton trip – an hour’s trip away.

More on the 200-capacity venue that is The Joiners is here in my venue blog:

Venue Blog: The Joiners, Southampton

We get in several songs in to Fiona Lee‘s set. Guitar and voice, both with edge and power. As we squeeze through to the far left of the busy venue, it’s obvious she has everyone’s absolute attention. This is a nice surprise. Hard to believe someone like this is third on the bill in the smallest of venues. I find myself saying this a lot, but surely she has a big future?

Fiona Lee – The Joiners

As she finishes her last song she steps aside from the mic, so the last lyrics can just hang, unamplified in the room. So effective.

The polite tunnel appears in the small but sell-out crowd, to allow Fiona Lee out and Girl Scout to push through to the stage.

Girl Scout are four-piece band from Stockholm. I found their single Do You Remember Sally Moore last week and been playing that on YouTube and thought I didn’t want to miss them. I wasn’t disappointed. What a great set.

Girl Scout, from Stockholm

The guitar is intense and frantic from Viktor Spasov: he’s right in front of us so I may have over focused, but his guitar gives that ultra-live feel to the music. The band are cool and confident and the overall sound is not so reliant on a dominant vocal – Emma Janson on lead vocals and guitar can float around in the sound.

The Joiners – Girl Scout

Indie pop with a punky disorderly feel and despite all bar one song being new to me, I am loving this. It is so good to turn up for support band you don’t know and think ‘wow, where did they come from!’…Stockholm. More… more.

I realise by now that the lighting is a bit too challenging for my amateur picture taking. There are three photographers clambering about in the venue, one has her own fold up stool which she briefly and apologetically mounts just in front of me. I can hear lots of shutter clicking noises (you can turn that sound off you know.. I didn’t say it) and sighs. Yes, it’s dark, backlit and they are moving very fast.

Here come Coach Party – the security man’s torch-led squeeze through the crowd, from the toilets corridor, gets them to the side of stage. It’s the second night of the tour and a second sell-out. I doubt they’ve been home but they are from just over the Solent on the Isle of Wight. ‘Dad’ is in and gets a shout out (from lead singer Jess) and I guess other friends and relatives have popped across on the ferry.

Come to think of it, there are a lot of ‘dads’ in tonight. Not just the one grey-haired gig goer in eh. A healthy mix though.

Coach Party at a sold-out Joiners

This indie-rock four-piece are loud. At a festival this must be less obvious. I fumble for my muso ear plugs as the opening number pushes the sound set up to its limits. The drummer is really hammering it out and the drum and bass dominate with some songs right into the grunge zone.

Oh Lola, their first single, released in 2019, is up the bouncy end. Three Kisses is introduced as a late inclusion in the set – when being interviewed by a national journo this week before the London gig, he said it was his favourite song, so they thought they’d better get it in or he’d be disappointed.

Their five track EP Nothing is Real, released in April 2022, is my favourite ingredient of the set, with a place for all five tracks, from Weird Me Out early on to FLAG (Feel Like a Girl) as their last, well nearly last. Everybody Hates Me brings a poppier sound to accompany what I presume are tongue-in-cheek lyrics of youthful misery. FLAG is my pick, and maybe everyone’s as it is the last song from the main set.

Jess Eastwood and Steph Norris – Coach Party

The cheers are loud. They won’t be allowed to leave just yet, although Joiners doesn’t really have the set for encore games. As they descend to the left of the stage the clapping increases. I would be rude not to pop back up. “Don’t judge us on this one”, shouts Jess before a crashing onslaught of drums, bass and everything in a burst of aggression which has a title: Parasite, a new song.

Another top evening out at The Joiners. Twelve quid. Bargain.

Long live independent music venues! #independentvenueweek2023

Gig Venue: The Joiners, Southampton

The Joiners Arms, 141 St Mary’s Street, Southampton SO14 1NS

The legendary Joiners

The Joiners is somewhere I wish I could move nearer to my place. For me it’s about an hour’s drive or I can get the train from Poole and walk the just under a mile from the central station, heading east towards St Mary’s football stadium. There are car parks nearby but I prefer the on-street parking meter bays up the top (north) end of St Mary’s Street and around the church. I have never had a problem finding somewhere to park. It’s not in the best of areas but I’ve not encountered any bother.

When the doors open the concern about having a signal, having enough battery left, finding e-tickets, emails and apps all evaporates as the person on the door usually just wants your name, postcode and to check you off the list. A traditional pen mark on the back of a hand completes the entry process – I find I can proudly sport this badge of honour for several days after, despite vigorous scrubbing with a nail brush.

Bespoke bar design

The merch stand is usually just inside the door. The bar and adjacent table have a great surface, made out of designs from Joiners posters, flyers and tickets. I’d love to try that.

Memorabilia table top

The bar is small and L-shaped – hard to get one of the seats, if there are any out – about eight at most. A good selection of beers and ciders. My favourite is the Roadie ale – quite a rare find with a distinctive mic stand tap. Darker with malty taste. On my last few visits I have tried some of the surprisingly wide range of no and low alcohol beers. (Brewdog Nanny State a good option with low calories.)

The K’s from next to the mixing desk – January 2022

Through the bar and out to the quite narrow rear of the gig room. Funnel through there, passed the small mixing desk on your left and the room opens out just in front of the stage, across its width, and only about as deep as the stage. It’s about as compact as it gets on the recognised gig circuit. I’m happy to lean on the rail next to the mixing desk – always a fascinating watch the mix desk. Another spot I like is by the wall to the left, by the mural.  If busy, the corridor to the toilets brings you out to that left corner spot with some polite pushing through.

Left hand wall decoration
Spear of Destiny – from the left wall mural spot – December 2022

The capacity is 200 but that makes for a squeeze. Bands are pushed for space with spare equipment piled around the steps up to the left of the stage, around a cramped roadie usually. When they come on, acts have to push through the crowd and later return with the aid of a security guard to escape down the toilets corridor – a corridor lined with old posters and pictures from years of rock’n’roll here. This curtails encore games with most just taking a breather on the stage, before a last blast.

(The toilets have unisex arrangement – don’t be alarmed when standing at the urinals.)

They’ve had some cracking bands over the years, on their way up: Green Day, Muse, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead. All before my time near the South Coast. In September 2012, Wolf Alice played as part or their small venue mini-tour. £15 and the tickets were like gold dust. Worth keeping your eye out for the listings. I’ll be back soon I’m sure.

Red Rum Club – May 2022

I will update these notes as I go. Links to my recent blogs from The Joiners can be found here:

Red Rum Club

The K’s


Spear of Destiny