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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
  • The Dead Kennedys – live in Southampton
    I never saw The Dead Kennedys back in the the day and despite the split with the unique voice of Jello Biafra, I was drawn to this one and wasn’t disappointed.
  • Peter Hook and the Light – live in Southampton
    Joy Divisions two studio albums performed by Peter Hook and the Light, in Southampton.
  • Inspiral Carpets – live in Frome
    90s Madchester boys, Inspiral Carpets, complete their first tour in eight years, at the increasingly notable Cheese and Grain in Frome, Somerset. This grey-haired gig goer is there to see them, 33 years after the last encounter.
  • The Damned – live in Southampton
    The Damned are back out on the road with the usual five-piece, after last year’s original line up outings.
  • W.A.S.P. – live in Bristol
    Shock-rockers W.A.S.P. are in Bristol for what must be the last time. An inquisitve grey-haired gig goer takes a peek.

The Dead Kennedys – live in Southampton

The Dead Kennedys at The 1865, Southampton on 5.5.2023 with Pissbath supporting

The 1865 seems to be my venue of the moment – my updated blog on the venue is here. It’s attracting bands I want to see and I really like the place.

Tonight, it’s to see San Francisco’s punk legends, The Dead Kennedys….well as they are today. While at school, the novel vibrating voice of original frontman, Jello Biafra, combined with regular John Peel show airings of the band’s singles and other tracks, imprinted them firmly in my consciousness.

Tour advert

There weren’t that many punk bands from the US, that had reputations that travelled across the Atlantic. They were a little late to the party with the first album not appearing until 1980, but that suited my timescales. They broke up by 1986 and I never did get to see them live. The break up was a big one, which led to Jello Biafra being sued by the other three original band members over the payment of royalties and they won. So the distinctive voice was lost. The current touring Dead Kennedys four piece includes two originals: East Bay Ray on guitars and Klaus Flouride on bass and backing vocals. Frontman is Ron ‘Skip’ Greer who has been with them since 2008… and he’s good.

East Bay Ray – guitars – at The 1865
Klaus Flouride – bass/ backing vocals – at The 1865

It’s another packed house tonight. Yes, the audience has aged with the band but tonight the angry youth inside is allowed out. Near impossible to get forward with a pint and if you do you’re going to lose it and be covered in some more. Support band Pissbath, also from the US, got some appreciation but I was up on the balcony and at the bar, catching up with mates. Considerable excitement as they take to the stage. It’s not every week the Dead Kennedys are in the country.

Frontman Ron ‘Skip’ Greer flanked by Klaus Flouride and East Bay Ray – Southampton 1865

We managed to push down the side left a bit (here with Plymouth Dave tonight) and I end up wandering a bit to get a better view and grab a video up at the raised back bar – so as not to obstruct or get hit by a flying pint.

They open with Forward to Death, from THE album for me: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Released in 1980, it’s the only one I bought (later on CD) and I am less familiar when leaving this one. Half the set is from this album so that’s a relief.

Dead Kennedys at The 1865

The front section moves and leans in the direction of frontman Skip. He disappears down into the pit from time to time, emerging to towel down his sweat soaked head.

Really good sound, at volume, this. After several later album tracks, so as not to peak too early, first album single Kill The Poor makes an entrance. Fists are pumping and the mosh pit sways. Too Drunk to F*ck is probably well known for all the wrong reasons but well received, with smiles.

East Bay Ray and Klaus Flouride keep to their opening positions – concentrating on keeping it together. Only front man Skip is mobile. Strong drums beat from the back.

The one minute EP track Nazi Punks F*ck Off is cheered, perhaps for longer than the song itself. A curious addition to any John Peel show at the start of the 80s. Well meaning yet almost comical. After that, one we have all been hoping for: California über Alles. What an anthem. They leave the stage and a main set timed to ensure more is an urgent necessity.

The Dead Kennedys – back for more at at The 1865

I’m up at the back next to the bar at this point and captured the first of the encores, Bleed For Me, on my camera video. (Here on my YouTube Channel.) This is followed by cover Viva Las Vegas, which appeared on that first album, before another of the Dead Kennedys’ prize nuggets, Holiday in Cambodia (link to another Grey-Haired Gig Goer video). Times have changed eh? Every song a mini history lesson – I have been on holiday there since its release and couldn’t stop singing it.

To finish, another first album classic, Chemical Warfare. More steam, the last steam, is let off. So glad I made it to see The Dead Kennedys, at last. Well I guess I had not tried that hard in the post Jello Biafra years, when I could have done, and realise now I should have done.

Peter Hook and the Light – live in Southampton

Peter Hook and the Light at The 1865 on 27.4.2023

Just a brief note for this one – I wanted to mark it – I gave up work earlier in the day. What more can be said about the sounds of Joy Division, this gig being one on the Hooky tour showcasing both the studio albums: Unknown Pleasures and Closer.

Peter Hook – The 1865, Southampton

It’s both albums in full, Unknown Pleasures first. Before that, no support band but instead a shorter introductory set of New Order songs. Well worth getting there on time for and wrestling for a car park space with the late arrivals for tonight’s Premier League relegation battle at St Mary’s, very close by, between Southampton and Bournemouth (Bournemouth won it.)

Hooky on stage in Southampton

An odd day for me this one: this afternoon I left my job and full-time employment, probably forever, to look forward to more years of enjoying life as a grey-haired gig goer. I came back from the office, got changed and with our little car full, drove to tonight’s gig (with SHa, GAl, AFr). No end of term beers tonight – this was another long-standing musical appointment – hadn’t intended to end my career today when I bought the tickets.

Peter Hook at The 1865

The only surprises in the setlist are the New Order component to start – which I take as a big bonus – and perhaps less surprising, the encores.  Confusion was my New Order highlight and this section ended with the 1997 Monaco single What Do You Want From Me?, Hooky’s post New Order band, which had two albums – must check those out.

I saw Monaco live once, although I don’t remember it (Reading Festival), never Joy Division, and after a few New Order gigs with and without Peter Hook, I find that in the last three and a bit years, I keep bumping into excellent Peter Hook sets at festivals – Great British Alternative Festival at Butlins 2020; Victorious Festival 2021, Let’s Rock Exeter 2021; Rebellion 2022 and maybe the best of these Shiine Weekend at Butlins 2021. This is the first proper Peter Hook and the Light tour gig I’ve been to though. They have all been great sets, with some more limited on time than others. This is indulgent though – the Joy Divison studio albums. A packed room full of largely male ex-John Peel listeners, of an age, in dark clothes and Doc Martens. There are some young people in here though – all is not lost.

Despite the cool and grumpy look to Hooky over the years he always performs with so much passion and effort. This is a long trio of a set and he is up front an full-on throughout. After all these years he still giving it like he’s touring a debut album, and with a polished band with him (including his son) to give a better live sound than surely any Joy Division performance (just listen to live album Still).

After gorging on this dark feast what then for the encores? Firstly, New Order’s Ceremony, then Transmission (YouTube from Mr Bitz II) and inevitably Love Will Tear Us Apart, the big singles that were not from the studio albums.

The carpeted stage post-gig

I can’t imagine anyone even half liking New Order or Joy Division would be disappointed by a Peter Hook and the Light gig. This was another winner.

Inspiral Carpets – live in Frome

Inspiral Carpets at The Cheese and Grain, Frome, Somerset 22.4.2023 with Lumley supporting

The Cheese and Grain seems to be growing in stature and becoming appealing to more tours for something a bit different.  My last visit, with a bit more info on the town was for Sweet. (Blog link)

Frome

A weekend gig meant a bit of extra time to wander around Frome, stopping over at a B&B (Rook Lane House), as it turned out with all four rooms taken with Inspiral Carpets fans – opposite a carpet shop – lovely old house and a friendly stopover.

New and secondhand record shop, Raves from the Grave was well worth a visit, it also being Record Store Day. I picked up a signed copy of the latest Inspiral Carpets’ remastered singles album, Generation X first album re-release and used LPs by TV21 and Wasted Youth. Bit of a haul.

Pre-gig involved a pint in The George, at the heart of everything on the main street done through the town, then up the hill to Italian restaurant Castellos – I recommend those. Best of all, a few doors down is Palmer Street Bottle, a craft ale bar that does a great cheese board and stunning ale selection.

Back down to The Cheese and Grain to catch Lumley. Cover songs with a 90s theme to get the sell-out crowd singing along. Enjoyable as a while-you-wait rabble rouser.

A sell-out crowd – towards the back of the venue
Lumley – tonight’s support – locals

Inspiral Carpets

My preferred Madchester option from the 90s – it’s that organ – what a fabulous sound. I bought the first album Life (1990) and later that year was at Reading Festival for their headline set on the Saturday night – I just went to the one night, a regular thing I’ve done with Reading over the years, except when I lived there for a five year period.

How could anyone forget the full marching band of drum majorettes that trooped out for She Comes in the Fall – what a stunt. I found a video on YouTube. The Inspiral Carpets were chart toppers then. What a gig for those majorettes and the look on the lead baton twirler’s face is pride, fear and emotion: She Comes in the Fall – Reading 1990 vid.

Despite a fistful of very good albums, I didn’t see them again until this Frome gig. They split in 1995, reforming in 2003. The band membership has been in constant evolution. When drummer Craig Gill died in 2016 the band stopped again – tribute is paid to him tonight, the last night of Inspiral Carpets’ first tour for eight years.

2023 Tour

The current line has three original members, although one of those, frontman Stephen Holt, is so much an original band member that he left before that first album and 1990 boom.

Vocals – Stephen Holt

Clint Boon has been at the heart of that keyboard/organ-led sound since 1987 and he’s very much stage front for this gig.

Ladies and gentlemen: Clint Boon

The other original is guitarist Graham Lambert. He is joined by two newer members including a youthful Oscar Boon (18) on bass.

The sell-out, standing, Saturday night, crowd of 850 is over-ripe by the time the Carpets unroll. Wonderful atmosphere. I looked down at the floor to admire the array of trainers – a range that could grace any 90s gig – like an Adidas shop.

The whirling organ sound, so distictive, dominates. The backdrop throws shapes and tells stories of the past. The cow artwork appears (Cow Records was the first album label) – the crowd ‘moo’ intermittently, a rural touch adding to this market town venue. Reference is made to the early days when Noel Gallagher was the band’s roadie – maybe some photos appeared on the screen but for a lot of the gig I was off to the front right, before moving in front of the speaker wearing some ear protection and leaning on the rail.

Inspiral Carpets – rear centre view – Cheese and Grain

The set leans well on that first album Life with more than half the set from it. These include She Comes in the Fall, Joe, which they open with, and that anthem of self-pity: This is How it Feels…. to be lonely. I thought that was their best track for years but in my mind it was eclipsed, as it was tonight by Dragging Me Down and better still, Two Worlds Collide:

What have I done with my life?
Is this the end when two worlds collide?”

Both of these tracks feature on the Revenge of the Goldfish album (1992) – a really goody.

Inspiral Carpets – Frome

Frontman Stephen Holt comes down off the stage later on, to step on the front barriers, leaning over the herd, keeping his voice controlled and steady while the organ does its wild things, driven by Clint.

Well I hope I don’t have to wait another 33 years to hear this wonderful noise again (I won’t – they’re playing Victorious Festival 😁). It’s not just the stand out tracks, it’s the whole set. Yes of course I’d like to hear the 1990s vocalist, Tom Hingley, but you can’t always get what you want eh.

They finish with Saturn 5, a single from their 1994 Devil Hopping album. Top night – friendly, enthusiastic crowd – great venue to visit and stay in town for. Mooooo!

The Damned – live in Southampton

The Damned at O2 Guildhall, Southampton 18.4.2023 with The Nightingales supporting

After the original line up Damned gigs last year (Damned – live in Hammersmith blog) this Spring tour is back to normality and promoting the new Damned album Darkadelic, which is released on 28 April. Unfortunate that the release date is after the gig, especially as it turns out to be a set heavy with the new material.

Preez bar – opposite The Guildhall

I’m with an old school friend tonight, who I used to go to gigs with regularly back around 1980 in London. We lost touch after I left home and he’s recently moved down Dorset way and this is our first gig together for about 42 years. We start with a beer in a bar I haven’t tried before: Preez, opposite the Guildhall on the edge of the square.

I rock up to the bar and admire a framed photo of Captain Sensible taken in the early 80s in Glasgow. “He’s just over there,” says the barman. It’s 7.30pm and The Captain is sat chatting to the photographer and her friends. She has some Damned photos displayed and postcard sets for sale. Just eight of us in here which is odd given the time but I’ll come again. I can linger for a chat with my mate safe in the knowledge The Damned aren’t on stage yet.

We pop over – I say pop over but my knee is heavily strapped – to the Guildhall. I lead us to the barrier at the side of the mixing desk – essential leaning place required for my knackered leg. (Notes on the venue in my Guildhall blog.) Also there is the hope that the sound near the mix desk might hold up – this high box of a room continues to be a challenge for sound engineers and unfortunately tonight they’re going to be losers again.

O2 Guildhall Southampton

The Nightingales are on when we get in. I saw them in a pub in Birmingham about 40 years ago – they lived near me in Balsall Heath back then when we all wore dead men’s big coats and old jackets. The documentary film King Rocker, featuring singer/songwriter Robert Lloyd sparked some interest in seeing them again but the wayward sound and lack of familiarity with their work isn’t rekindling anything.

Robert Lloyd – The Nightingales
Robert Lloyd sings to his cabbage

There seems plenty of room still when The Damned come on, Dave Vanian hanging back until the first song starts up. Two new album tracks to start. The sound is pretty awful and I remember why I dodged this venue for several years. Just so much echo off the high walls and ceiling.

Dave Vanian

Two from The Black Album lift my mood: Wait for the Blackout and Lively Arts. My favourite Damned album with the extended classic, Curtain Call. Red and yellow swirls on the stage backdrop create interesting silloueettes. Then it’s back into the new album which no one has had a chance to hear yet. Why not tour after the release – give yourselves a better chance.

The Damned – O2 Guildhall

Vanian is ghoulishly lit in his black hat. Always stylish. He wanders all over the stage and off it, behind the drummer and whipping his mic cable out of his way as he goes.

Prince of darkness, Dave Vanian

The Captain is in his naughty Dennis the Menace jumper. “Thank you for coming out Southampton and the neighbouring towns, including those beginning with P,” as he acknowledges the Saints/Pompey rivalry. He adds a red nose on for the new single Beware of the Clown which has some familiarity.

The Captain

All these new songs are testing patience – near enough a whole album’s worth. The crowd are hanging on in there but without much enthusiasm. “That’s the last of the new songs” announces Captain Sensible. Relief, then 100mph versions of Love Song and Machine Gun Etiquette – sound creaking.

Dave Vanian

To my surprise, one of the better songs is Standing on the Edge of Tommorrow, from the last album Evil Spirits. Neat Neat Neat at top speed again to round off the set.

Paul Gray on bass
Monty Oxymoron on keyboards

The first encore is the classic cover Eloise. To finish, the bankers, the fans favourites Smash it Up (Part 2 caught on my zoom camera and here on my YouTube channel) and yes, of course, New Rose. It must be hard for them not to play New Rose. It’s a brilliant song – the best punk song? When that drumming starts, it sounds so fresh and live every time, even on record. Those last two songs save the day but I would love a sound engineer to talk me through the battle with this room tonight.

The Damned in Southampton

Just a few weeks ago The Lords of the New Church finished their set at the Vive Le Rock Awards with New Rose. Damned original Rat Scabies joined them on drums for that and we bumped into him in the bar afterwards – me coincidentally sporting his 1977 face on my t-shirt.

A grey-haired gig goer with Rat Scabies at The Vive Le Rock Awards

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.

Jobbo

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