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.
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.
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 🙄
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.
The Shins at Chicago Theater, Illinois, USA on 8.9.2022 with Joseph supporting
On holiday in the USA and all eyes for a band to see while in Chicago. The Shins were there, on a plate, walking distance from our hotel and tickets left. No, I hadn’t heard of them despite their 25-year history but a few plays of the album they were touring and we thought let’s do this (on the trip with wife Sally).
The venue is a gem. We popped down earlier to the box office to avoid app faffing or misunderstandings. It’s just south of the Chicago River and a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue, very near The Loop, that quirky raised metro system. A noisy iron mess, but quirky. A pre-gig pint (or 16oz) sat outside the Elephant and Castle looking up at it.
A 3,600 capacity all seated theatre with a large upstairs balcony (which I think was closed for tonight); plush seats; beautiful ceilings and lighting; built in 1921 and restored in 1986.
The bars are virtually queue-less with rapid can sales of a range of craft ales and the staff were all enthusiastic and friendly – so welcoming. A well behaved crowd in tonight.
Being a US city there are metal detectors on the way in and a clear bag policy and maximum bag size to minimise searching – I left my pocket camera behind just in case. No masks needed and any Covid signage seemed historic and few wore masks. The no cameras, no phones or videos warning seemed half-hearted and the crowd was littered with people grabbing memories with their phones – I stood by a pillar and joined in once I realised I wouldn’t be tasered or ejected.
Tonight’s Support: Joseph
Joseph? An odd name for two twins and their sister playing folk-pop. They are from a town called Joseph in the State of Oregon, and the name is also in respect to their Grandad Jo. Oh. Bad name. Thought they might play some Carpenters.
The main singer-songwriter of the three is Natalie Closner Schepman who plays guitar on-stage and the Closner twins add vocal harmony and on-stage distraction. All very light with a few covers thrown in – a pleasant intro to the evening.
Also now based in Oregon, The Shins were originally formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1996. James Mercer is the main man and the only consistent member in the band. They get an indie rock label but it seems they have had a history of adapting sound and playing different styles over the years. The term ‘pop project’ has been applied and I get that seeing them here tonight.
You can hear Beatles-like pop simplicity and then a few songs later be lost in a haze of dry ice and white lights in some sort of Genesis-like prog rock experience. The lighting was really effective – simple but atmospheric.
When the band came on I was quite surprised, given the laid back reception for the support band, as the whole seated floor of the auditorium got to their feet. I was pretty knackered from pacing the streets of Chicago so I have to admit I was mildly irritated – it was all good though.
With the tour being a ’21st Birthday Tour’ for the Oh, Inverted World album it gave a chance for rapid pre-gig familiarisation. Spotify to the rescue with the added help of their top five most listened to. A more familiar tune that appeared, surprisingly, was Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy… bit of a head scratch there.
The support trio Joseph popped out to join in on five or so songs – they must be friends eh.
I managed to grab a video of one of the later songs not from the featured album: Mine’s Not a High Horse’(link to my YouTube channel). That was followed by Simple Song which is one of their instantly enjoyable numbers.
The last song, SleepingLessons, had a familiar inclusion if a bit of Tom Petty.
A worthwhile evening out on the town and all hassle free. Maybe I felt a bit of an imposter, seeing the crowd lap up this performance largely consisting of songs over 20 years old, which I’ve only heard in the last 48 hours.
The Foo Fighters with an extensive array of rock legends, and friends of Taylor Hawkins 3.9.2022 Wembley Stadium
NME provided a comprehensive and well informed summary of the day: NME on The Taylor Hawkins tribute. I could never do this day justice. I went up on the train still looking up the names of many guests – some were family, some were relatives, some from bands I knew but not individual band members. I got to hear them all in what transpired to be a six hour emotional rock’n’roll feast in honour of Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins (1972-2022).
At the 4.30pm start, which me and gig buddy Dave were in promptly for the start of, I started putting a few notes into my phone but it soon became apparent that such was the fast changing array of talent any hopes of keeping up would be fruitless and overly distracting from soaking up this extraordinary event. My pics were all a bit distant – we were a fair way back, high up in a Wembley Stadium holding a capacity 90,000 crowd – but to jog the memory better it was streamed Worldwide and proper recordings will be available. I will watch it all again when I’m ready. There is also the second US version in a few days of me writing this (in LA on Tuesday 27 September).
Perhaps I will feel differently when I re-watch it but I left that stadium thinking that was the best gig I had ever been at – what a collective performance and what a remarkable multi-instrument display, with so many artists, by Dave Grohl, with all the emotion of the whole event as well. It was incredible.
In my photo above, on the bottom left, the film camera bank can be seen and with mobile ones and aerial shots, I can only imagine that the aired version would have totally overcome any sound any vision detractions I had – fair bit of echo back there which noticed when artists spoke to the crowd.
Liam Gallagher kicks it all off in a respectful and calm mood with two very apt Oasis songs with Dave Grohl on the drums: Rock’n’Roll Star and Live Forever. From that point on I recall my high points, with memory jogging help from the 50 song setlist published in NME.
Hearing Nile Rodgers perform Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Modern Love, in Wembley Stadium seemed so fitting to the surroundings – I could visualise a white suited Bowie on that stage. It was the artists I had never seen and am unlikely to see live now that grabbed my interest more though. The first of those was Wolfgang Van Halen playing a couple of Van Halen songs: Bonfire and Hot for Teacher, with Justin Hawkins on vocals.
Another surreal high spot was the Supergrass section. They were invited as Taylor Hawkins liked them and they toured with Foo Fighters a few years back. Supergrass can’t have played to a crowd like this – I have seen them a few times and hearing their three songs Going Out, Caught by the Fuzz and especially Alright blasted out in such surroundings was fab: it felt so upbeat and happy in the circumstances…with Dave Grohl on drums …of course.
The distinctive sound of Chrissie Hyde was another moment – another three track package ending with Brass in Pocket.
Violet Grohl, Dave’s daughter, with Mark Ronson and Mr Grohl on drums hit an emotional spot with Valerie, as the Amy Winehouse adopted Zutons belter.
One guy I was really looking forward to see, OK hear anyway, was AC/DC’s Brian Johnson – there’s a great tv series where he drives around to meet up with and talk to artists and Dave Grohl featured on one. I doubt I will ever see AC/DC but I got to hear Brian Johnson do Back in Black and Let There be Rock, backed by the Foo Fighters, with Justin ‘Darkness’ Hawkins helping out again.
When Stuart Copeland took to the stage that was another big moment – I bought those Police early singles before they went huge – a distinct drumming sound. Everything She Does is Magic with Gaz Coombes of Supergrass on vocals. Another unique experience in music.
One band that I somehow got into later in life, as what started as a guilty pleasure, was Rush. They have said they will never tour outside North America again… but two of them were here, including Geddy Lee, the voice. They played 2112 Part 1: Overture and Working Man. Wow. Just wow.
My last mention before the Foo Fighters’ main set is the Queen section. Highlights: Brian May playing Love of My Life; Justin Hawkins singing Under Pressure and Eurovision man Sam Ryder singing Somebody to Love – Roger Taylor singing, son Rufus of The Darkness drummer. So much going on at this full-on rock celebrity jam session.
Then the Foo Fighters main set itself – Grohl holding it all together, though ripped with emotion. A set that started with Times Like These, All My Life and the blast that is The Pretender and finished with My Hero (Taylor Hawkins’ son Shane drumming so hard in his dad’s place) and lastly Everlong.
In the middle of the Foos’ set… an unannounced appearance of Paul McCartney. I was there at Glastonbury when Dave Grohl guested in his set with Springsteen so maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.
McCartney called on Chrissie Hynde to duet with Oh Darling and then into Helter Skelter. My favourite Beatles song: I always say Siouxie and the Banshees really knew how to play it best but hearing McCartney do it at this event was a special moment.
Six hours. 50 songs. An epic performance and a beautiful event to pay tribute to the life of Taylor Hawkins. An extraordinary day which I look forward to reliving on film sometime.
Victorious Festival 26 27 28 August 2022 at Southsea Common, Portsmouth UK: Day 3
Last day at Victorious (Friday and Saturday links to my previous blogs). My last of three festivals this Summer. I took it steady today. I watched five bands and spent a long time just sitting, chatting, listening at a distance and having a few beers.
I watched a couple of acts, The Libertines and Sam Ryder (pure curiousity) from the platform in the premium area mainly and could see them from the comfort of a settee with my dodgy leg elevated. I think that counts as ‘seeing’ them…. as opposed to just listening which I did for Metronomy and Amy MacDonald, who sounded pretty good. I didn’t count those ones in my 17 acts ‘seen’ this weekend. You’ve got to have some ground rules for your gig-going eh.
I thought The Libertines were surprisingly downbeat, having seen them on tour in the last year and enjoyed the guitary chaos of that. I suppose even the ‘afternoon special guest’ tag can’t overcome a Sunday lunchtime set.
The Reytons are the band I hadn’t seen that I wanted to see most this festival, having bought their first album, Kids Off the Estate, after initial recommendation from an old colleague from Coventry (Tony the Toucan).
I was up and down near the front for this lot, over on the fence near the mixing desk again. I had a wander front left later.
They’re from Rotherham: name coming from the Yorkshire phrase ‘right ones’. Indie rock – real life observational lyrics. They’ve been going since 2017, so they’ve had time to develop a brash stage confidence with a having good time feel. They’re enjoying themselves in the sunshine in their all-white gear.
Pick of the around ten song set: album title track Kids Off The Estate; Slice of Lime and Low Life, caputured here on my YouTube channel. ‘Reet good that eh’.
After that excitement I retreated for a beer and a crêpe, in the tent in the oasis of calm that was the premium area.
When Eurovision sensation Sam Ryder appeared, I popped my head out on to the platform. It was absolutely heaving out there. A whole new crowd appeared to see the Euroman. There were about 100 people on the stage with the Portsmouth drumming group boosting the numbers and the sound. Six songs then Spaceman – well that was worth a listen I suppose. He does have a great voice but I watched the arm waving throng with suspiscion and stayed out of the way.
After distant listens, I reappeared to watch Editors. I’ve liked their sound and vocals over the years when I’ve bumped into them, although I’ve not really ever gone looking for them. Yeah, they were worth the watch again.
I was waiting for Suede. Right up there in my list of favourite bands. I saw them on their first big tour at Birmingham Hummingbird, bought the records, read the books but have seen them at surprisingly large intervals considering.
Brett Anderson was right at it like it’s his first gig. Some wonderful mic swinging that Roger Daltrey would have been proud of. What an trim athlete he is, leaping off things as he attacks the songs. His mic cable stopped a full-on stage leap but he clambered down, at one point swearing and gesturing at a photographer who had outstayed his time limit.
It is a stunning set: Trash, Animal Nitrate, Pantomime Horse, We Are The Pigs….ending with The Beautiful Ones.
I decided to leave on a high and went to find some chips and curry sauce to round off my 2022 Victorious Festival. I have seen Sam Fender twice and I listened as I exited down the seafront with my chips.
17 bands in all – a mere fraction if what was on offer but my individual musical path. Maybe I should amend my t-shirt.
Victorious Festival 26 27 28 August 2022 at Southsea Common, Portsmouth UK: Day 2
With the Friday here being an introductory day with a main stage and two small ones, today it cranks up to the full capacity with 13 stages – I only manage three of them.
An early start and in before noon. I cannot miss The K’s who open the main stage (Common Stage) here on Southsea Common. Bright sun and hotting up. I grab a place on the central barrier between the stage and mixing desk.
The K’s seem to have boomed this Summer, with the help of a range of festivals. I first saw them support The Rifles at The Roundhouse three years ago and instantly took a like to their fast guitar power pop rock.
A short half-hour set but an excellent showcase for what they do, including their classics Glass Towns and Sarajevo. Still time for lead singer Jamie to jump down to sing from the security barrier. One of the top performances of the day.
It’s over to the Castle Stage now (the second largest stage) to see Coach Party. I’d not heard of them until a few weeks ago, when I started listing to some bands on the line-up. These were the best of the ones I hadn’t heard before. They are from just over the water, on the Isle of Wight.
Great lyrics of modern life with indie pop guitars. Their latest Nothing is Real EP is good listen. I’m sure I’ll be seeing them again.
Then it’s a wander back over to the main, Common Stage to see We Are Scientists. They have been around for about 20 years but I’d not seen them or listened much to this New York based indie rock outfit before this Summer. Enjoyed them but I was waiting for Inhaler – one of the main attractions of the festival for me.
Inhaler bought out their first album, It Won’t Always Be Like This, in Lockdown and I pre-ordered the vinyl having earlier bought their Honest Face single. Yes, I’m sure I was intrigued to listen as it’s Bono’s son fronting the band. I went to see U2 in their early days – first three album era but they lost me after that. Elijah Hewson looks and sounds like his dad – unmistakable. As they start I get a real neck bristle of excitement – brilliant. I love it that I can get that of a new band in 2022.
There’s a keen crowd that’s filtered in especially and it’s busy. I find a spot near the mixing desk fencing with a good central view. Great sound. Tight clear guitars. It’s a clean sound.
What next? Bastille headlining on the Castle Stage or Paolo Nutini on the Common Stage? …. I sneak off to see The Bog Rolling Stones in the Comedy Tent, bumping into friend Al, Steve and Dawn on the way – more appeared later. It felt like a guilty pleasure – I did enjoy the Stones hugely earlier this year. Let’s just go and enjoy ourselves. A tribute band with wigs and a few gags but a greatest hits set to crown the day.
Hewson is not that exuberant today – it is a festival and consequently a short set. The single Honest Face is the best known and best received still. I got a clip of Who’s Your Money On (Plastic House) (link goes to my YouTube Channel).
No rushing around after that to grab a glimpse of more at another stage. Just a re-group near our air-filled seat thing and blankets.
Ocean Colour Scene on next. I must have seen them ten times over the years, third time here – always good – I love all their albums so they can’t fail. They don’t. Performance of the day.
Simon Fowler’s voice is still beautiful and wide ranging. Looking at him you might wonder. It’s a ‘best of’ set – short and very sweet. The Circle (about the 11c bus route round Birmingham that goes through Moseley, where I once lived, as did OCS) early on and belting run to finish: Blown Away; Travellers Tune; Riverboat Song and the Day We Caught the Train.
After that I could have walked off happy with the day. I wander back over to the Castle Stage feeling a bit weary and another infected insect bitten leg hampering me. I go up the back of the arena and find a spot on the steps below the illuminated VICTORIOUS sign to watch White Lies, and wait for Kula Shaker.
I enjoyed White Lies, albeit from quite a distance. Nothing too gripping but I had done some pre-fest revision. Pleasant indie pop-rock.
After that – well I can’t sit here forever. I used to like Kula Shaker – seen them before and The Jeevas a few times, lead singer Crispian Mills’ follow up band – but I hadn’t listened to them for ages until recent weeks.
I went right down the front – sat on the ground and waited, rising to the first bars of Hey Dude that they started with.
The Peasant and Pigs album is my pick but they only play one track from it tonight: Shower Your Love, and no Mystical Machine Gun. It is an intense performance, by Mills in particular – he says little but works his guitar hard. Another band I’d like to see a full tour set of again.
They end with the trademark spiritual sounds of Govinda – the sound is Indian with synthed sitar. All the more absorbing being right down the front in the squash and pushing zone.
I wandered back to my hotel, fit to drop. Another great day at Victorious Festival. As I walked back, behind Bastille playing their last unremarkable effort and up through the Common Stage with a few Paolo Nutini offerings – no thanks – pleased with my choice of The Bog Rolling Stones. Goodnight. See you again tomorrow.
Victorious Festival 26 27 28 August 2022 at Southsea Common, Portsmouth UK: Day 1
This event has been a regular in my calendar since 2014. There was a break for Covid in 2020 and I haven’t always been on the Friday but otherwise I’ve always made it. It started in 2013 but that passed me by.
It’s only an hour and half drive from home; the urban location makes hotels – anything you can find (I have taken in a range) – an obvious way to do it if you don’t live local; it’s in a lovely seafront location and the selection of bands is sympathetic to a grey-haired gig goer, while also offering new bands, a wide range of stages and a chance for local bands to get a look in. It has always been great value. Invariably I have booked ‘early bird’ tickets without knowing who is playing and never been disappointed. 2023 early bird tickets total £145 for all three days. Camping is a separate and distant arrangement and there is a reasonably priced premium bolt-on to ease any festival negatives.
The food selection is good and varied (Paella👍Falafel wraps👍Stuffed Crepes👍 all winners…ok and the chips and curry sauce). Last year, queues got awful but all better this year. Bar queues not an issue this year either as the drinks were so bloody expensive it slowed people up a bit I guess. (£6.90 for a pint of my choice of Brixton Pale Ale. Same for Amstel or Strongbow. The ‘fast bars’ selling 330ml cans of Brixton Pale and larger cans of the rest for the same price. That’s my only negative from this year.)
The aim was to park and drop bags at our hotel near Southsea Common and get wristbands and in for the first band Primal Scream. A few delays sorting out parking and a later start meant I failed on that one. We lounged around in the shaded tent of the premier area with a few beers – well quite a few beers and bottles of wine, listening to the main stage (Common Stage) and emerged for James.
James are band I have seen supporting and at festivals and have a few CDs by, but have never gone out of my way to see. Hard not to like in the sun this afternoon.
Frontman Tim Booth ventures down the central fenced off divide that leads to the mixing desk, then goes over the top halfway along for a crowd surf. Impressive.
Ten songs, including Ring the Bells, Born of Frustration and naturally: Sit Down.
“This the last song we have… we have another 300 over the last 14 years” announces Tim before they play Sound to end – the megaphone is out.
I stayed out for Bombay Bicycle Club – sound – I don’t know their stuff much. I gather they’ve had hiatus and comeback so maybe that’s why I haven’t noticed them overly. One CD in the cupboard – it’s a big cupboard that one – and I saw them once at Reading Festival. Enjoyable and kept us on our feet – quite up the poppy end of indie rock.
There are a couple of the smaller stages open today but I haven’t made the most of what’s on offer. Easing myself in.
Next The Stereophonics. They always seem better than I expect and that’s the way tonight as they round up the evening as the Friday headliner.
I have seen them 5-10 times now: first time at Leeds V97 Festival and all these years later I am still punching the air tonight to The Bartender and The Thief – still my favourite track. So many to choose from these days. The set highlights include Mr Writer, Have a Nice Day, Maybe Tomorrow and those wonderful, chanted lines from A Thousand Trees:
“Picture gathers dust in the bar in the Lounge it takes one tree to make…
A thousand matches Only takes one match to burn A thousand trees A thousand trees”
Kelly Jones never gets that excited – a few quiet words and he lets the songs do the business, yet again. Dakota to end, with a few fireworks. Ahhhh.
First day over. Taking it easy. Three bands. Poor show really – I can’t count the ones I heard from the bar tent – but caught up with friends and the Brixton Pale Ale. Legs saved for another day….two more days to come.
The Gaslight Anthem at O2 Academy Birmingham 21.8.2022 with Chris Farren supporting
After a bit of a post-Rebellion Festival breather in this hectic gig-going year, stretched by the tube, bus and rail strikes scuppering a Brixton Bauhaus gig, I’m back on the road to see The Gaslight Anthem.
O2 Academy Birmingham
Located at the top of the main Bristol Road, on the intersection with the inner ring road on the south side of the city centre is the O2 Academy. A half mile walk from New Street station. When I lived up here it was known at The Night Out and then The Dome. I never went there in those days – a bit flash for a student. I did get to the O2 Academy once in June 2018 to see Billy Idol and The Professionals when I returned to Brum with gig buddy Dave on our 8 gigs in 8 days tour. (Here with Dave again tonight – we were both students up here in the early 80s.)
There are two smaller venues here but the main one we are in this evening has a 3009 capacity, with 600 of those being in the balcony – a quite shallow sloped balcony around three sides of the square shaped dancefloor downstairs. It’s that balcony we are in tonight. We are in soon after the doors open which allows choice of front row seats which are unreserved. Great view.
Usual O2 drinks offering with the Shipyard Ale doing the job for me. Yes it’s bit pricey but getting in early to the balcony pays its own dividends.
Chris Farren supporting
Chris Farren is a singer songwriter playing electric, at times eccentric, guitar. I presume he doesn’t expect to be taken seriously – why else would the words ‘guitar solo’ appear on a screen behind him when he does one.
From Florida, three albums and a bit of comedy in there. He passes the time – there is one amusing song with video animation behind on the makeshift small screen. It’s about quitting your job, Domain Lapse, with images of bodies falling from clouds. That was the height of the short set for me.
A lot of echo being used and his fast talking American voice is not that audible. I can’t really understand the audience’s enthusiasm for the set. Even with the jokey makeshift screen powerpoint reminding me of his acheivement in the ‘summing up’ I remain unconvinced – bemused even, but then post-Covid support acts have seen a lot of lower risk one-person acts or no support at all.
The Gaslight Anthem
The Gaslight Anthem come on around 9.15pm: a practical undramatic entrance. They plug in and they’re off. It’s a full and solid sound with four guitars including the bass, plus the drums and keyboards. The keyboardist and one of the guitarists are touring additions to the four-piece band.
Frontman Brian Fallon is the talker as well as the main singer and lyricist. He had a three year break as a solo artist 2019-21. There haven’t been any new Gaslight albums since an earlier break in proceedings in 2016-17 so material comes from their five albums released 2007-2014. My pick is Handwritten (2012) and seven of the 21 song setlist are from that album which is welcome, the best being the title track which second song in.
A few songs later, Fallon stops and stares and he waits for the band to get ready: “we can just stand here and stare at you – it cuts both ways you know – stick that on Instagram, freaks!” All in good humour. He toys with a couple in the balcony who don’t look that close and keeps returning to them for amusement.
They’re sound is from New Jersey. It gets a few labels but it’s American rock – Homeland rock – a hint of Springsteen, a friendly Kings of Leon, early REM, essence of Pearl Jam.
Not much by way of introduction to many songs and no pomp. They just get on and play their great sounds. The set rocks along with high points, the odd crowd surfer and they wrap up with 45 and the excellent ‘59Sound…..captured and saved to my YouTube channel.
No encores. Job done and off they go. Time for a new album maybe. It’s been a while.
Rebellion Festival and R-Fest in Blackpool 4-7 August 2022 (Days 3 & 4)
Saturday morning. Arrgh. We went too early and sprinted on day 2 of this marathon. I can hardly stand up first thing. Legs swollen and generally in a mess after yesterday. I had to dip out of the morning excursion with my Rebellion gig buddies to find the blue plaque to mark the tram killing of Coronation Street’s Alan Bradley. They succeeded. I had to make do with a WhatsApped photo while I watched the Commonwealth Games on TV for several hours.
I started plotting how I could make today a bit easier than the previous two days (summarised in my previous blog).
I got the tram up to North Pier (nice little spot for a mooch about – a quiet coffee – Sooty started his first gigs here) and dropped down through the irritating zig zag queue barriers to the outdoor, seafront R-Fest stage for the bag search and pat down just in time for The Primitives – a 2.30pm kick-off. I plonked myself down on the floor near front, to the left, against a barrier. The crowd was spaced enough that I could see pretty well so I just got up for a few songs and to take some pics.
I have the first few Primitives albums on pre-recorded cassettes – every play is a risk these days but they still work. I saw them at Birmingham Powerhouse back when Crash came out – great single that.
There was quite a lot of faffing about on stage and they stopped at one point to sort things out. They were good though and the set was stuff I knew well but had left behind decades ago, so good to be reacquainted.
After that I thought I’d try a first beer of the day – it was busier on Saturday so the only bar selling ale had an offputtingly long queue, while the big bars, strangley free of proper beer, remained untroubled. Cider time….and yes a picnic table seat. Heaven. That was me sorted and I watched The WeddingPresent from a distance, popping up to snap the odd pic on zoom.
I couldn’t stay back there for Spear of Destiny mind. I caught up with my mates and went for a side barrier position, front left. Good leaning spot.
Another case of a band playing to a much bigger crowd than they do on tour these days – a few hundred at the last two SoD gigs I was at – on the World Service album delayed 35th anniversary tour – and the thousands watching here.
A wonderful rendition of the World Service title track graced the set (which I captured here on my YouTube channel). Old favourite Mickey got an airing, and Spear of Destiny’s only top 20 single: You’ll Never Take Me Alive. Liberator to finish. That was lively. Time to head inside.
On a mission next as I made my way into the Winter Gardens and the Almost Acoustic Stage to find Pauline Murray, and a chair…ahhhh. Pauline Murray’s Penetration was the first band I ever saw live – I have all the albums and the solo albums so this held some significance. She played solo material and a few Penetration songs. She seemed unduly nervous but it all worked out. What an opportunity. I was sat right near the front.
Pauline introduced one of the songs – Dark Clouds – from her 2020 album, referring to depression and hinting at her experiences. Quiet hard hitting – bit of a choker.
After that treat I made my way back across the tram tracks to see Peter Hook and the Light. By this time on Saturday there mood was getting jolly. The tram tracks had increaded safety measures. Men in high vis jackets walked in front of trams slowly passing the R-Fest crossing point, while others marshalled the cavalier crossers.
Hooky and the boys delivered a classic Joy Division set – just that early New Order single Ceremony creeping innear the end – finishing with Transmission and Love With Tear Us Apart. Hooky always delivers.
I retreated further back after a bit, in search of seats, ageing legs ruined by the previous day, and sat on the floor for a bit with a cider mid-set. A relaxing sunny evening. Sound still good. Hooky’s bass rumbling.
Back across the tracks and into the Winter Gardens. I was intent on seeing Cock Sparrer. Who were these longstanding Oi legends? No free seats anywhere in the Empress Ballroom so I sat on the floor upstairs – lined up against a side wall with some skinheads stripped to the waist – them not me – it was boiling. The place was heaving. I made a move when the band came on but just couldn’t get a look in anywhere. First few songs sounded great but I had to give up trying to peer over and round pillars and people. I wandered down to the Pavilion area.
An incredible amount of t-shirts, records and badges was on sale on the stalls around the Pavilion in the day. The Rezillos played in the stage those surrounded. Quiet a small stage for them I thought and I couldn’t get a decent view. I didn’t want to use up my last hour of legs by standing yet so I headed with enthusiam for another chair luxury at the Almost Acoustic Stage….and of course The Ramonas who obliged with a Ramones singalong.
I had saved myself for one more today…. The Godfathers in The Pavilion. So glad I did. I saw them twice back around 1989, after the classic 1988 album Birth, School, Work, Death but never since. A really aggressive, loud set – a real caldron of sweat. Yes, they played the title track (my clip). A wildly appreciative crowd and band by the end. New album coming soon. Got to be worth a listen.
That was me done for Saturday. I got back to our hotel to find my gig buddies had retired even earlier. More training required.
Last day. I was always going to take it easy on the last day but I didn’t think I would end up spending so long in the Literary Stage. It was a fascinating spot.
But my first target was Altered Images on the R-Fest Stage at 2.30pm and I was in just in time to find the others around our familiar front right spot.Altered Images were loads better than when I saw them recently in Southampton – I think that was just having a bigger better crowd – Clare Grogan was her same cheery self. Dead Pop Stars remains my favourite. It surely would have got up the charts were it not for the grossly unfortunate timing of the release and John Lennon’s murder.
I hung around a bit for Buzzcocks but I didn’t have much interest in seeing them without Pete Shelley – they were fine and everything moves on. Hearing Steve Diggle interviewed (well talking) later that afternoon I felt a bit guilty about that. I do see – he has to carry on and he has earned that right.
A few of us left early to go and see Chelsea in the Empress Ballroom. Gene October still at the helm. We sat up at the back. I appreciated both the seats and the performance. I can’t believe I’ve never seen these punk legends before – I missed them by a day once in Granada, Spain. I sat staring at that logo thinking where have the years gone.
After that we gorged on the Literary Stage. A round table, comfy chairs, dark and air conditioned room and a few bottles of Blue Moon. Maybe this was our day four surrender… no no it was really addictive. Fascinating.
First Alvin Gibbs of the UK Subs. I knew he had returned to the Subs but didn’t realise where he’d been. A World tour playing with Iggy Pop and all the stuff that goes with that. A real wow. Then listening to life returning to touring with Charlie Harper again with the Subs after other band adventures.
Great seats. I was staying put. Steve Diggle came over from his earlier Buzzcocks set. The impact here came from his recollections of punk hitting Manchester and the early gigs with The Sex Pistols: “It was chaos…. It was beautiful.”
He talked about Pete Shelley dying and the decision to carry on. I can see now…..he just has to. That is what he knows. Why wouldn’t he. He convinced me Pete would approve. Good luck to him.
As a Hammers fan and Stranglers nut, the Stuart Pearce ‘show’ was always something I wanted to come and find. The place was packed. All seats full and standing round the sides. A great raconteur of life with England and Brian Clough at Forest in particular. He spoke of his trips out to see punk bands and Gazza’s antics when he roomed with him. He got a huge cheer and I collared him after.
The end was nigh. Time for one last gig to round off this four day extravaganza. I headed down to the Club Casbah to see Kirk again… this time with Stan Stammers for the Theatre of Hate performance. I caught a bit of Gro-Mags when I got down there and nabbed a picnic bench towards the back while waiting and for the first bit of the set.
The set was quite short – starting late – but I thought this was a magnificent performance. The Theatre of Hate sound is markedly distinct from Spear of Destiny. More mystery, more edge, more aggression. The sound was excellent – the band seemed to be concentrating. No joviality. They started with Westworld and finished with Original Sin. The set was a masterpiece and it certainly crowned my Sunday.
I was done. I got a t-shirt from the ToH merch stand and headed in search of chips and a tram. What a great four days. My first Rebellion – last? I very much doubt it. OK I screwed up a bit by going for it on day 2 but all was not lost. We made it.
My Flickr album of Rebellion band pics over the 4 days here.
Rebellion Festival and R-Fest in Blackpool 4-7 August 2022 (Days 1 & 2)
My first trip to Rebellion or any of its other earlier incarnations. The line-up was irresistible. I had to do it once and so this was the year, aged 59, that I headed north, very north, for my debut and to meet up with gig buddy Dave and Big Gra.
As it takes a day of expensive and failing trains to get there we arrived on the Wednesday night to dodge wrist band queues and not arrive wrecked. Already a sense that this was to be a marathon not a sprint. In the end I think I managed the four days as a leisurely stroll, a stagger, one long sprint and a gentle wander, not in that order.
Everyone’s wander through the four days must be unique. So much choice – bit of exploring but I probably played a bit safe on many band choices: maybe a bit heavy on the R-Fest, the separate and less punky outdoor section of the festival, on the seafront and about 10 minutes walk from the huge complex of venues in The Winter Gardens.
Hard to do justice to it all I know so I have gone for the wander through, in order, approach. There were eight venues and a cinema – I missed a couple of them.
Into the Winter Gardens to get our bearings. A pint in Club Casbah watching Litterbug before heading to see Pizzatramp in the beautifully ornate Empress Ballroom, largest of the indoor venues with three rows of seats up at the back of the balcony – those balcony seats were to become very sought after by day four.
Hard to remember seeing a band who give less of a sh*t about anything. Short blasts of song, some confrontational chat and amusing from the South Wales trio. “Who can afford £190? You can’t be real punks!” says Jimmy. “This one goes out to all those people at the other stages: I hope you f*cking die!” He introduces another very short blast of song called There’s Been a Murder, based on the TV series Taggart. He said he felt obliged to watch all the episodes and was annoyed to find that Taggart never uses the phrase once.
He mellows to call his 6-year-old son on his birthday and the crowd sing Happy Birthday. Jimmy crouches and is lost in emotion, blubbing. “I’ve got sweat in my eyes you English c*nts!” Pizzatramp: well worth the watch.
Off to look at The Literary Stage with Tim Satchell talking about his books about Clash albums, followed by TV Smith, once of The Adverts.
The Literary Stage was a lovely cool, dark and smart rest area to hear a wide variety of interviewees. Nearby were the best toilets in the place and a bar with bottles beers and no queues. More of a work conference feel than a punk festival.
More music next with one of the bands of the day: Knock Off in the Club Casbah.
Uncomplicated anthems – played fast – played with passion and punch – such as 1980; Football, Beer and Punk Rock and the wonderful This is Who We Are, This is What We Do. Charlie Harper is in for a look – Charlie is everywhere this weekend. What a legend.
Then down to check out the R-Fest, how far it was and how long it took to get in. The queues to get in there varied massively over the four days. Main hazard getting there and back was the tram lines and no one fancied ‘doing an Al Bradley’ (Coronation Street reference – a tram killed the rotter).
Had a quick look at Dreadzone with their buzzing bass notes before returning to the Almost Acoustic Stage for the quirky indie popof Peter Bentham and the Dinner Ladies. Unusual room with model villages up in the ceiling.
I felt I should go and see Anti-Flag next, in the Empress Ballroom – recommended (PCu). I knew of them but can’t say I’d listened. Exciting stuff. Full-on American punk. They don’t seem that old but they’ve been going since 1988 and frontman Justin Sane, an original member, only 10 years younger than me.
After the band of day one I guess it was a nip back to the Club Casbah for me to catch the last three songs from Spizzenergi, including of course Where’s Captain Kirk? I say of course, but Spizz introduces the last song as Clocks are Big, Machines are Heavy, sings a few lines… and then Where‘s Captain Kirk starts.
After that I was back out to the seafront R-Fest to see Hawkwind.… yup Hawkwind. Well I had to. An interesting inclusion and respectful nod to these psychedelic rockers. It felt more 70s Glastonbury than 2020 Rebellion but I was happy – I didn’t know any of the songs and they didn’t play Silver Machine.
After that, I popped back to the Winter Gardens and watched a bit of The Boys at the Casbah for a few songs before heading off to see the added set by The Skids in the Empress Ballroom.
They played the same set I had seen several weeks back in Southampton but that didn’t matter…same stories even. This was a big crowd compared to usual tour venues they are playing and that made it that bit better.
After that I was keen on seeing The Bar Stool Preachers, but the queue at the entrance to the Casbah was large and not moving. I had to concede. I settled for sitting in the Acoustic Stage with a pint, while members of Anti-Flag chatted to a few fans after their acoustic set. That was me done for Day 1. What a day eh?
Today was less wandering: much more standing, more sun and much more beer. Today was the day I ruined myself – my legs mainly – but it was a fun way to do it. We did start the day with a trip up Blackpool Tower – a must if you’re in town.
We watched the first five bands at R-Fest on the seafront. These started with The Vapors. A decent start and a set including News at Ten and Turning Japanese.
Jilted John was next. I wasn’t interested really. I sat on the floor, front right, by the barrier. Bit of a novelty but a novelty I think I had my fill of by the beginning of the 80s. Yes, the Jilted John song was still good to hear I suppose and there was smiling with the singing.
Then Toyah bounded on to the R-Fest stage – sparkly and happy. Maybe a bit Marmite but I’ve always loved Marmite. I was down the front at the London Rainbow in 1981 with Harrington jacket with Toyah on the back so yes I have a bias.
A few covers included that went down well: Echo Beach and Rebel Yell (I wonder if she will do that one when she supports Billy Idol later in the year). This set had a bit of more zest and the sun came out.
From the Jam kick off with Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – fantastic start. A one hour set packed with great songs.
Russell Hastings, looking up at the Tower above, commented that he hadn’t played Blackpool for many years. (He was also the only artist that mentioned the tramway death of Coronation Street’s Alan Bradley…which got a cheer from three of us anyway.)
Even though I’d seen them recently this was still irresistible, although a safe choice. They finished with That’d Entertainment and Start.
….and on to The Skids… again. I wasn’t going watch them again this weekend but we were here and didn’t to move. Lazy enjoyment of the same set as last night. I did wonder if I would miss out on any different inclusions in the set but Jobson pointed out that they had quite a new bassist, as well as drummer, and they’d learned the songs for the tour, so repeats it was.
After all that outdoor excitement I had a special visit to make to the Almost Acoustic Stage indoors. Lesley Woods, former singer-songwriter and guitarist from The Au Pairs was playing a solo set. I can’t recall seeing her play live at all since she left music behind for a career as a human rights barrister, so I had to witness this. I saw the Au Pairs several times in London back around 1980 and that brilliant first album, Playing With a Different Sex. When I moved to Birmingham as a student I saw them around there as well and found then living nearby when I lived in Balsall Heath.
These are short half-hour showcases. A few Au Pairs songs and some new ones. Extraordinary to be watching an artist I followed so strongly 40 years ago but haven’t heard since. I really appreciated that chance and would like to see another gig.
Back over to the seafront for The Stranglers. It’s busy but I’m back in time. The band of day – and the weekend I’d say. I would say I suppose – 36 Stranglers gigs now so I will be biased.
I loved the setlist, starting with Toiler on the Sea and finishing with Tank and No More Heroes.A crowd pleasing set with just one new one from the excellent Dark Matters album. Relentless from the Suite XVI gets better and better and so has established itself as one if the more modern (2006) faves – the first album with just JJ and Baz Warne on lead vocals. (My vid clip of that one.)
A lot of Stranglers t-shirts in for this. Maybe day tickets swelled the numbers so this was a partyinblack. I got swept along eh. Beer flowed. Another top sounding Stranglers live performance with all the variety their back catalogue can bring. I was pretty much done for the day…. but The Ramonas were just starting in theEmpress Ballroom. Hey ho… Let’s Go!
It was brilliant to see them playing to the big full hall of the Empress Ballroom. A chaotic loud frenzy of Ramones nostalgia – the air punching, the guitar stances, the Gabba Gabba Hey sign.. the lot. (Pinhead on my YouTube channel.) Loved it.
That was me well and truly done for Friday… how did we do two more days of this? Have I blown it? There is a sequel.
The Beat at Cavern Club, Liverpool 21.7.2022 with The Skapones supporting
A few nights in Liverpool to absorb some Beatlemania and a Beat gig to take in while we were there (a trip with wife Sally and gig buddies Dave and Ann.) Originally the gig was set for the Central Hall in Liverpool but it has closed for good it seems and we had an apologetic message to say the gig had been moved to The Cavern Club, yes THE Cavern Club.
Great place The Cavern Club. I went for the first time last December when I came up to see Big Country at the Central Hall. Yes, it’s a rebuild and it’s a tourist attraction but a top place to soak up some history – live music all day, decent beer, loads of framed photos and signed memorabilia and it’s rebuilt almost on the site of the original legendary club.
This is The Beat with Dave Wakeling, the original lead singer and songwriter, that we are seeing.
After The Beat split up in 1983, another incarnation of The Beat appeared later, with Ranking Roger heading it up. That wasn’t straight away – there was General Public with Dave and Ranking Roger, and others from Dexys Midnight Runners (Mickey Billingham and Stoker), The Specials (Horace Panter) and Mick Jones from The Clash for some gigs. I saw General Public in June 1984 at a student union event at Birmingham University, billed as Aftermath and looking at the old programme/ticket it looks like Mick Jones didn’t play with them then.
I saw The Beat before that at the long gone Tower Ballroom near the reservoir up in a north corner of Edgbaston, Birmingham (The Set supporting) – must have been around 1982/3. After the split and the General Public years, Dave went to live in America where he went on to tour with his own band as The English Beat while out there. I saw them decades later in July 2017 at Mr Kyps in Poole, another lost venue. Perhaps it is that limited exposure to them that has kept them fresh for me… a bit like The Selecter.
There are two main areas in The Cavern Club where bands play. There’s a central arch in the more traditional looking area as you enter, having come down the spiral steps from Matthew Street.
The other gig space in a rear section, where The Beat are playing tonight, is called The Live Lounge and holds 350 people packed in and standing. The ceiling is low. It’s hot and sweaty as soon as we’re in. This is a sell out.
The support tonight is The Skapones, a two-tone ska sound from Darlington. They do their own stuff and covers and seem have some travelling support – full of energy and get the dance floor going.
We get a reasonable view from the left hand side, raised a few steps from the dance floor that’s in front of the stage. There is a large tv screen to the left that shows the stage and it isn’t so packed that I couldn’t get to the front or to the back of the dance floor for a better view.
I spied Eddie Lundon of China Crisis in the crowd early on and he was game for a pic.
The sound is loud but good – no ear buddies required even at the front. It was hard to get much by way of photos but that’s not what it’s about tonight. This is a bit of a party. Drinks are flowing.
As soon as The Beat get going the dance floor is bouncing. So many familiar tunes – their own and covers they have made their own over the years, like Can’t Get Usedto Losing You and Tears of a Clown.
There are seven of them packed into the stage and the ‘toaster’ Antonee First Class could do with a bit more room.
Hands Off She’s Mine and Save it for Later are my early faves. Somehow the passion is still there for Stand Down Margaret – 30 years after she eventually got forced out.
I went down for dance and to have some beer spilled on me – irresistible. Right at the front but able to retreat to our side table base.
The tunes keep coming: Best Friend; Too Nice To Talk To. Dave Wakeling seem very happy – it is the last night of the UK tour so a celebratory feel from the stage as well.
Toaster Antonee gets to do a few of his solo numbers before the final run in and the floor keeps bouncing.
Saving the best until the end it has to be Mirror in the Bathroom. What a cracking single that is: their highest charting single at no.4, released in 1980.
Mirror in the bathroom Please talk free The door is locked Just you and me Can I take you to a restaurant That’s got glass tables You can watch yourself While you are eating
Dave Wakeling and The Beat 1980
This gig was right up there on the gig list for the year so far – a lot of fun and a special venue.
The Skids at 1865 Southampton 16.7.2022 with The Postmen supporting
After trips to see The Skids all over in recent years – Belfast, Dunfermline, Minehead, Glasgow, London – it’s good to have a more local gig.
The 1865 is improving with each visit and holds more appeal for me as I get to know it. Great beer choices, good viewing options. Last visit was for China Crisis but there’s more background in my Spear of Destiny gig blog from a few years ago.
The main change from then is the removal of the odd indoor fake tiled roof down one side. The unusual but handy raised rear level where the main bar is, remains. Tonight it’s busy without being rammed: we can pick our way through the high tables and chairs to get to a space nearer the front. The right hand pillars are a good leaning option or route to a stage side view if it’s busy.
The Postmen are a lively and very watchable support. Southampton based but the frontman is a scouser – there’s humour in the songs and banter. A bit of Boris baiting – with masks – amid the jangly indie rock sounds. They went down well, finishing with a Depeche Mode cover, which didn’t fit that obviously with the rest of the set.
I bumped into the singer of The Postman at the recent China Crisis gig here. I was hanging around the merch stand chatting to him and mentioned I’d just seen The Skids and he said “if your coming to see them here we’re supporting”. Well I made it.
Skids time. Not much hanging about.
The place was pretty hot and sweaty. It had been quite a scorcher that day. A great set that was quite compact. TheirClash Complete Control cover is tops and they threw in a bit of Pistols Pretty Vacant after the TV Stars‘ Albert Tatlock chant..and more Boris baiting.
Jobson introduced The Saints are Coming, noting the U2 success with it, but no acknowledgement of the fact it is a Southampton FC song round here – maybe it didn’t click. What a rousing version and crowd reaction. Perfect place to play that one.
I’m starting to wonder how long the Skids revival will continue. The band continues to change, with another new drummer to add to the replacement of Bill Simpson on bass. The Big Country boys – Bruce and Jamie – continue to give the band that Stuart Adamson guitar sound. And now Gil Allen on bass is also playing with Big Country and The Skids.
Yes it was another great night out with The Skids. It helped it being a sunny Saturday.
As we filed out to the fresh air Jobbo was by the door to see us all out. An obligatory pic, with wife Sally, my old mate Andy and a grey-haired gig goer.