Old Skulls on Display at Pyramids

Band of Skulls. Pyramids Centre, Portsmouth 6.12.19

End of a second week without a gig and I cracked. A spur of the moment trip to the Pyramids Centre on Southsea Common to see a relatively new band for me: Band of Skulls. OK so they’re 10 years old and tonight they finish their tour showcasing their first album, released in 2009, ‘Baby Darling Doll Faced Honey’. That’s still relatively recent for me.

I first heard Band of Skulls (BoS) on a live festival appearance on TV when they played ‘The Devil takes care of his own’. This all sounds like they’re going to be dark and scary but not at all – indie rock with a lot of guitar and with a bit of garage sound and blues which has a Black Keys sound at times.

‘The Devil takes care of his own’ in session on Radio 1:


An early Skulls gig

My first Band of Skulls (BoS) gig was possibly one of their highlights as they returned to their home town of Southampton for what was was a big one at the Guildhall. I bought the live recording on signed CD thinking this was a tour gimmick but this appears to be an official release that was only done at the Southampton gig. Really good recording, properly but rapidly done and got out within half an hour of the encores.

Self print tickets hardly count do they – I only keep proper ones now
Live album from Southampton Guildhall gig 2014

I did try and see them in California that year. We were on holiday and in San Diego when they were playing at The House of Blues. I rocked up earlier in the day and was disappointed to find it was sold out. My pleading and Englishness got me nowhere and we were staying far enough away that trying outside for spares later wasn’t on.

Victorious Festival 2017

Next opportunity was the now annual trip to the Victorious Festival on Southsea Common, about 100 yards from tonight’s gig.

A great performance with big sound, big lights and huge crowd bolstered by their Southampton/ Portsmouth fan base. One of my favourite performances of that year’s festival. This was on The Castle Stage, the second stage.

As always – all photos are my own, even blurred ones – unless stated.

They were at Victorious again this year but I missed them due to a clash of interests – while they played an afternoon slot on the main ‘Common Stage’, I was wrecking my knees watching a relative play in Offbeat Offensive in a tent.

Pyramids Centre 6.12.19

Pyramids Centre viewed from the area where I last saw BoS

For more background on the unusual but convenient Pyramids Centre see my Psychedelic Furs blog, link below. My only added note would be to check out the Southsea Rock Garden to the east side of the complex – a little park. If you’re looking for a convenient hotel another tip I offer is Q8 on Clarence Road. Sea views available.


Tonight’s gig doesn’t seem that full at all which surprises me. Maybe it’s that time of year with parties and stuff on a Friday night. There’s some refurbishment work going on at the rear of the pyramid where the bands play. Only one bar open but loads of staff and it’s not busy.

Support band Higher Peaks kick off. A short set lifted when Russell and Emma from Band of Skulls join them on stage.

Support: Higher Peaks

BoS take the stage and do, as promised set about their first album, ‘Baby Darling Doll Face Honey’. The twist is a brilliant acoustic section in the middle.

Sound is good. Loud and clear. Great guitar and pedals which lead the sound – this is a bit indie rock meets prog – maybe the hairdos are influencing me.

Just three in the band: Russell Marsden on guitar and vocals and Emma Richardson on bass and beautiful vocals, and I now realise the original drummer has gone. I noticed looking at my older photos that he was different. Original drummer Matt Hayward left in 2017 and Julian Dario plays with them.

BoS Pyramids Centre 2019
Russell Marsden BoS – Pyramids 2019 – the all important guitar pedals on show
The acoustic middle section

‘Fires’ is the track with the first album title lyric…Baby Darling Doll Faced Honey, and this clip illustrates that indie meets prog sound I was getting at:


Pyramids Centre 6.12.19

After the first album material we get some faves. These include ‘Sweet Sour’ and, perhaps of course, ‘The Devil takes care of his own’.

Really pleased we came out and over to Southsea tonight. We hang about for a promised appearance at the merch stand. Partner Sally picked up a picture disc of ‘Devil’, original cut apparently which she got Russell and Emma to sign.

Sally with Emma Richardson

After gig mingle and selfie – Russell Marsden (centre) with The Grey Haired Gig Goer and Sally.

Just one more clip as a Band of Skulls highlight – in case I haven’t convinced you to listen to more. ‘Himalayan’ on Jools Holland:


Paying Tribute to the Playing Tributes

Wish We Were Pink Floyd, Chichester Assembly Rooms, 9.11.19

A relative gig holiday for me for a few weeks so time to catch up on a gig I missed a Blog on – Wish We Were Pink Floyd at Chichester Assembly Rooms. This may look like an excuse to delve into a host of tribute acts I’ve seen…it is.

There was a time I was a bit dismissive of tribute bands but they seem to have come into their own. Particularly useful where seeing the real deal would involve a time machine, a miracle or a long shot at a £150 for an awful view in some distant venue.

Mr Kyps, Poole

Every town seems to have a tribute band haven where they head for. Posters announce a fabulous array of mis-spelled and pun-tastic names, or just famous names with a UK or similar suffix…how lame. I was so disappointed to see the end of Poole’s Mr Kyps venue in Ashley Cross – yes Mr Kyps still promotes many of the tribute favourites at other venues around the area but we still miss Mr Kyps…we could walk there.

At Kyps I blew my ears out with The Four Fighters, and enjoyed the likes of Green Bay and other eyebrow raising names such as The Fillers and Sgt Pepper’s Only Dartboard Band (!). Fleetwood Bac to me, having never seen or likely to see the real thing, provided an excellent alternative for a tenner. Particular Kyps highlights were U2 Baby and The Sex Pistols Experience – I never did catch the all girl Pistols tribute alternative: the wonderfully named Sex Pissed Dolls (!! Yes really).

Oasiss, Foo Fighters GB and The Stereoiromics are memorable tributes (for the right reasons) that have graced the Poole harbourside summer music festivals I’ve been to in recent years.

Oasiss in Parkstone

Oasiss were put on by Kyps at one his new alternatives: Parkstone Trades and Labour Club earlier this year. Really good but not many there.

The Bowie Experience performances at Mr Kyps were the most memorable. A great night and a full house to celebrate Bowie’s 70th birthday but shortly after Bowie died and two further memorial gigs were put on. People queued right down the road. I went on the first of the two nights. The place was rammed. The bar ran out of beer and emergency trips by staff to the supermarket for extra supplies kept things going. A fine tribute tribute to the great man. Absolute Bowie, who I saw at The Brook, Southampton in January, is another really good Bowie tribute, especially in the early Bowie era.

Just like being there

The Smyths are one of the better ‘it’s like seeing the real thing’ tributes – once at Glastonbury in a tent and later at Bournemouth Old Fire Station. Also Speak ‘n’ Spell delivered a greatest hits alternative to Depeche Mode, again at Glastonbury 2017.

The Smyths, Bournemouth Fire Station 2018

One that fulfilled the need to see a now impossible to see band is Laughing Stock, Talk Talk fakers. They played a captivating set in Brighton last year which finished promptly enough to allow a rare opportunity to see two gigs in one night.

Genuine tribute?

I don’t know if tribute bands with an original band member really count as a tribute – From the Jam with Bruce Foxton is something of a hybrid.

From the Jam – Foxton was The Jam: Ferndown, Dorset

Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg at The Fleece, Bristol was about as good as it gets for a quasi-tribute act, and I did catch Ritchie Ramone at Fibber Magees in Dublin a few years back.

Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, The Fleece, Bristol 2019
Richie Ramone – Dublin 2016

The full tribute Ramones option comes in the form of all girl tribute The Ramonas who can recreate the real Ramones excitement – seen them three times in 2019, including their original material set on the introducing stage at Butlins Minehead Alternative Music Festival.

Ramonas at the tiny Winchester Gate, Salisbury 2019
Pee Pee Ramone – Ramonas at Butlins, February 2019

Plastic Letters

Earlier this year I saw Blondie tribute Bootleg Blondie, with Blondie’s original drummer Clem Burke on drums, in Wimborne. How did they pull that off?

The tribute act night out is still something special. It probably doesn’t need watering down with genuine original band members sneaking in to the act, and bumping the ticket price up.

After being hopelessly side tracked into some of my tribute band experiences I will get to the latest one, Wish We Were Pink Floyd, but not before a shout for Blondie tribute Blonde E Lux, playing mainly in Cornwall with some welcome and nostalgic additions to a pure Blondie set – Transvision Vamp, Lightning Seeds, Primitives and more – Bridget and Andy also play occasionally as a duo which is how they were when I caught up with them at the Dorset Soldier pub in Sandford, near Wareham, Dorset this summer.

Blonde E Lux in St Ives:
Summer 2018, Kettle and Wink Pub

https://blondeelux.weebly.com/ for more.

Wish We Were Pink Floyd

Glad we were here

Comfortably numb
– at the back with a bottle of wine

So a Pink Floyd tribute act. Historically not my bag but in recent years I have come to appreciate Floyd, after much mocking of prog rock school mates in the punk filled late 70s.

The recent Chichester Wish We Were Pink Floyd was a good excuse to base a night out with musically appreciative friends on. I still wondered if I should have grown my hair longer – tribute prog rock so maybe a wig even – and sewn some flare bits into my jeans; a cape, a mousey ‘tash. I needn’t have worried.

There are of course some big name Floyd tributes that I have heard people rave about. The likes of Australian Pink Floyd are half way to full price fakes. Our lot though are still great musicians and I couldn’t fault it. I’d recommend to any Floyd fan. Perhaps I’ll catch the Aussie tribute sometime to compare. The Brit Floyd one maybe better I’ve heard.

Wish We Were Pink Floyd

Very much a welcome greatest hits selection at this gig. The seated table lay out to the gig was a bit weird but we enjoyed our seats in a back corner. The venue was welcoming and full.

Chichester Assembly Rooms get fake Floyd

I did get the chance to see the real Floyd’s Dave Gilmore last year when he came on as a guest at the final Pretty Things gig in the Indigo O2, Greenwich. He didn’t hog their limelight – quite special to see.

The real Floyd’s Gilmore in December 2018, Indigo O2 with The Pretty Things

I once had a paper round and delivered to his house in Sunbury-on-Thames, down by the river, but I don’t recall him being there then. There is a Floyd mural on the garden wall- my mum took that photo.

Dave Gilmore’s old garden wall – my nephew’s hand pointing

I look forward to more tribute bands in future years. One day maybe I’ll be booking then in a day centre for old rockers somewhere . No time to be sniffy about tribute bands. Value entertainment with some very fine musicians (eh Joe Duke).

Post Post-Punk’s Not Dead: Crows

Anvil Rockbar, Bournemouth 21.11.19

A black wet Thursday night in Bournemouth. Didn’t rush out – flagging a little – and arrived at the Anvil Rockbar while Southampton band Mystic Peach were finishing their set, down in the dungeon of noise that is the basement of the Anvil.

With partner Sally tonight – not sure what she’s going to make of this. We have seen Crows before though, in surroundings that could not have been more different – a sunny afternoon on Southsea Common at Victorious Festival 2018, on the second, Castle Stage.

We were wandering passed as they were playing, off somewhere, and I put the brakes on – I could hear something special.

My pre-Victorious blog: https://gigswithivan.home.blog/2019/08/15/victorious-gems-part-2/

I looked out for them and found some stuff on YouTube and Spotify since and this was the first convenient opportunity to get to see them live.


In the Anvil bar Sally stopped Crows lead singer, James Cox, to say hello after we recognised them and reminded him of the Victorious enlightenment. Seems a nice guy who clearly transforms onto another plane for Crows performances. He’s from mid-Wales somewhere that he clearly thought was too obscure to trouble our geography with, and lives in London now….they’re a London band.

The first Crows album, ‘Silver Tongues’, came out earlier this year. Before that a few singles and EPs – tracks ‘Crawling’ and ‘The Itch’ included.

James pointed out Lumer, that were touring with them, had just started down in the rock basement below so off we went. Muso ear protection in – the Anvil is always loud and furious – no hiding place.

The first thing that struck me about Lumer was that this felt like the early 80s post punk local gigs I went to in big old pubs in Birmingham. Even the clothes: stout no nonsense shoes, that weren’t all Doc Martens; robust, well made trousers that your grandad would be proud of and jackets that might have been from the charity ‘dead men’s clothes shops’ – like the ‘Digbeth tailors’ of Birmingham that my mate Nige (NCh) introduced us to when we were students.

Support band tonight – Lumer

Raw new sound with a clear and frantic drum beat at the heart of it, emenating from a drummer involved in a serious workout, stripped down to his ‘grandad’ trousers and robust no-nonsense shoes. This is a bit ragged but it’s new. There is life. Youth does have hope.

Frontman, Alex Evans, has spells of keyboard activity and some eyebrows are raising from those of us in tonight from the John Peel generation.

Alex Evans – Lumer

There can only be 60 to 80 punters – it only holds about 150 – but this place has its own atmosphere seeping from the walls (and indeed the gents). It doesn’t need to be rammed.

There are Idles’ fans in tonight, and I can see why (I only just realised they supported them on tour so not that surprising eh); students with interesting clothes; a bloke in a Southern Death Cult t-shirt; the John Peelers and Sally in her glittery top, bobbing about.

Lumer are worth tagging for a look later….from Hull.

Time for an Anvil Stout from the old engine block beer taps upstairs before Crows hit the stage.


Crows at the Anvil

James Cox is off, head thrashing, fighting with his two mic stands in movements and surroundings that look like an early Joy Division gig – no I never saw one but I’ve watched the films.

Some double mic action from YouTube, my videos were terrible: https://youtu.be/vHCupDUV3OE

As the set progresses the low stage edge provides little more than an optional guideline with James getting in with his audience.

A genuinely exciting Idles meet Joy Division style performance. The music media would label this as some sort of garage post punk indie sound. So much to offer here. Bigger things beckon surely.

They finish with ‘Crawling’, an early one which appears on the album. The gathering goes wild. I’m rooted to a pillar. Off on holiday tomorrow and don’t want to end up in A&E, or a repeat of my Members meet ‘n’ greet the dance floor experience a few weeks back.

Post post-punk’s not dead. John Peel would be so pleased.

Crawling: https://youtu.be/_aLywcJiHns

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Park … and the Pavilion

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre. 19.11.19

My 70th gig of the year. A Tuesday night back at the Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre where we were for Squeeze last week: https://gigswithivan.home.blog/2019/11/13/squeeze-a-songbook-for-life/

OMD …it’s been a while

On 7 July 1985 I went to the GLC (Greater London Council) ‘Jobs for Change’ free gig in Battersea. OMD played and I remember seeing them play for ‘Enola Gay’ but I didn’t see their whole set, maybe 20 minutes or so. There were several stages and I think they clashed with someone on another stage, The Pogues perhaps. Other bands that day that I recall seeing were Aswad and Billy Bragg. It was a huge event which was recorded as attracting over 250,000 people, by the more conservative estimates. https://tonyhollingsworth.com/?q=content/glc-festivals-and-concerts

I didn’t buy an OMD record until 1996. That was the single ‘Walking on the Milky Way’ on CD which was an already reflective piece looking back on the early 80s success. A great uplifting pop single, but the only OMD record I have. That is a bit odd as I liked their 80s singles, and their first single in ’79, ‘Electricity’. They were Top of the Pops regulars and a pub juke box pick but never a band I was moved to go and see.

Walking on the Milky Way: https://youtu.be/LdhYzXobHEk

When I saw they were playing Bournemouth on a greatest hits tour I thought I’d go and have another look, some 34 years later. I have been playing their stuff on Spotify for years. There are all those singles. I know the material and they have a place in music history. Got to be done.

I got tickets to one side, having seen that you are allowed to stand at the side aisle, on a visit to see Deacon Blue last year. This allows me to take a few photos without being in the way. Well I needn’t have worried about that tonight.

OMD tonight

Pavilion Theatre

Barely through the first song and Andy McCluskey declares that we are dancing and this lot are up on their feet.

I was amazed. I was bracing myself for more Pavilion attrition between the seated, the security and the enthusiastic dancer. McCluskey’s having none of it and not long after the arm waving and bobbing about has started with ‘Messages’ followed by ‘Tesla Girls’.

Andy McCluskey of OMD

This is a greatest hits tour so lots of familiar radio favourites from the 80s. No room for my favourite ‘Walking on the Milky Way’ mind. There’s a mid-set highlight of Joan of Arc.

McCluskey paces and weaves every area of the stage – he seems to have come out of his shell a big since 1985 😎. Brilliant showman. I’m pretty staggered by this. I enjoy near enough every gig I go to and making comparisons is never that helpful but sometimes it’s worth standing back to consider the performance in terms the actual experience against one’s expectation. This performance gets a very high score on that ratio.

The other original founding OMD member Paul Humphreys gets a spell in the limelight while McCluskey takes a back seat/ keyboard.

Paul Humphreys

In the mid section a few numbers were performed that underlined a bit of Kraftwerk worship, a key influence…no wonder OMD are so popular in Germany. Less arm waving and clapping at this point obviously. McCluskey is 60 so a rest would be understandable, however good he’s looking.

The Kraftwerk look

In the later part of the set ‘Punishment of Luxury’ was especially notable before we got to the classic ‘Enola Gay’ to finish the main part if the set. Brilliant. I’d have paid for the ticket to see that alone: really. Such a great song and I really appreciated this chance to see it live… again after 34 years.

And so to the encore. Three songs including ‘Electricity’ to round off a top gig, that really surprised me. Great escapism on a dark Tuesday night in November. …I also now have a new urge to see Kraftwerk.

Cheers – we enjoyed that

Support band – MiG 15

Andy McCluskey’s son, James, was playing bass and on backing vocals in support act MiG 15. There’s a flamboyant frontman Adam Bray also in this electro-indie pop rock outfit.

Adam Bray – MiG 15
MiG 15

We were moved sufficiently to go and see them after their set and buy their latest single, ‘Bite the Bullet’, on limited release 7″ red vinyl.

MiG 15 with James McCluskey between me and my partner Sally (cheers for the pic Nic)

Squeeze, a songbook for life

Squeeze and Heaven 17 at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre 11.11.19

Monday night in a big old theatre in Bournemouth. A place more suited to comedians, the ballet, the panto or a summer seaside special show. How’s this going to work then? It’s a tall order for Squeeze or special guest support band, Heaven 17, to get the crowd going when security are ready to pounce on any ‘disruptive’ dancing or attempts at standing….both bands manage it though, getting a coordinated rise to feet towards the end of both their sets. Credit due to the two Glenns, Tilbrook and Gregory, for beating these most sedentary of surroundings.

Glenn Tilbrook – Squeeze – Pavilion Theatre,
Bournemouth 2019

I haven’t seen many bands here considering it’s only five or so miles away. The most inappropriate booking here I was party to was The Stranglers 2006 gig with half the audience seeking to jump around in front of the first row and up the aisles…they never did that during Ken Dodd or Opera Aida. I came to see Squeeze here, with John Cooper Clarke, here in 2017 and that worked, helped by getting front row seats. Other than that, the bands I’ve seen here are limited to Level 42 and Deacon Blue – at Deacon Blue I went and stood at the back and then side which is altogether an easier watch if you want to stand…..and to take a few photos.

My Squeeze Tour

Squeeze are one of those bands that have provided a soundtrack to life, for 40 years of mine anyway. Tonight’s show is billed as the ‘Difford and Tilbrook songbook’ of the last four decades.

The first I picked up on them was with an A&M ‘sampler’ compilation LP called ‘No Wave’, which featured ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Take Me I’m Yours’, played in tonight’s set. I bought this in 1978 from a tiny record shop called ‘Squeeze Inn’ Ashford Common on the Staines Road West, a couple of shops along from Davro’s Discount Store where Bobby Davro used to work for his Dad, while doing occassional impressions.

I’d never have put them in my list of most favourite bands at any one time, never worn a t-shirt (you don’t see many out) but they’ve always been there for me as a jukebox or radio pick, Top of the Pops fave, a DJ request, an occasional album purchase and from time to time a gig. Always enjoyable, the beautifully British, Difford and Tilbrook combo now have a fabulous collection of material to draw from which they exploited tonight, some set to a backdrop of nostalgic photos from early days, yes with a juvenile Jools Holland.

I am just reading Nick Lowe’s biography in which Chris Difford refers to their Elvis Costello produced album ‘East Side Story’ as being their best. I would go for ‘Some Fantastic Place’ with ‘It’s Over’, ‘Third Rail’ – played tonight – and crowned by the title track. Maybe play them back to back and test that.

The title track of the Some Fantastic Place album: https://youtu.be/iNF5w4pP_Eo

‘Up the Junction’ made a big impression on me. The image created in that song haunted me as a young man – the now avoided horror (I think) of being stuck in a flat with no money, a baby and ‘nappies smelling’ – musical contraception at its finest and most sensitive – it was actually supposed to be the drinking and loss of that scenario which haunted.

The official video of Up the Junction with a young Jools Holland on piano and cigar: https://youtu.be/RQciegmLPAo

First time I saw them wasn’t until 1986 at Birmingham Powerhouse and another early Midlands gig was at Leicester Poly on 3 November 1990. Now have you ever heard of, or even imagined, that there could be a fight at a Squeeze gig? My mate Chris (CMe) managed to get involved in some sort of scuffle during ‘Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)’ or something equally unlikely. While I was at the bar he ended up on the floor surrounded by lads from the student bashing council estate nearby. Years later this notable event has escalated itself in our minds to something akin to the ‘Thriller in Manila’. In truth maybe just a bit of ‘Slap’n’Tickle’.

Between those gigs I was at the 1988 Reading Festival, which they headlined on the Sunday. After three days drinking there with friends I recall my friend Neil (NMu) appearing from the distance, during their set, with a stall closing bargain gallon of cider…just to put the final nails in our coffins (or was that ‘another nail in our heart’?)

As you’ve probably gathered I’m trying to catalogue my gig history here while I can almost remember them, as well as keep track of my later grey haired spurt of enthusiasm for live music. Boscombe O2 was another more recent Squeeze gig in 2012 – with Paul Heaton supporting who I missed most of due to a surprise early start.

Tilbrook and the grey haired gig goer at Poole Lighthouse

Then there are a couple of Glenn Tilbrook solo gigs, at Wimborne Tivoli and this year at Poole Lighthouse (above pic) and a relatively hush hush performance at Glastonbury 2017 in the ‘Green Room’ tent (below) with just Difford and Tilbrook which was exceptional and a privilege. You needed to know a local (eh Glasto Nige).

‘Green Room’ performers tent 2017

Squeeze tonight

Tonight we got some of their favourites – King George’s Street – and lot of ours. The extended version of ‘Slap’n’Tickle’ stood out particularly, surprisingly, and how can ‘Up the Junction’ not get a welcome airing.

Cool Cat, Chris Difford at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre

The gravelly voice of the immaculately dressed Difford on ‘Cool for Cats’ is a another highlight – these boys are well suited and booted tonight – I’m doing the shoe gazing. Well supported also with attention grabbing percussion plus the drums and bass, with two keyboards to call on at times or a bonus guitar. Great band with the main keyboard player bursting to get out from behind his gear, which he’s allowed to late on with his mobile shoulder slung keyboard.

Tilbrook (Squeeze) in Bournemouth

Full set list, littered with gems: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/squeeze/2019/pavilion-theatre-bournemouth-england-39d450f.html

After a pause, and some uncertainty, like a real encore, they return for ‘Take me I’m Yours’ and ‘Black Coffee in Bed’.

Thank you and goodnight Bournemouth

Heaven 17

A half hour support slot is not enough for Heaven 17 to really let loose but they had everyone up on their feet by the end for ‘Temptation’. Frontman Glenn Gregory is a master, and he looks like he’s just dying to get another hour with the audience.

Heaven 17 – Glenn Gregory and Martin Ware in Bournemouth with Squeeze

I saw them twice on their last tour, Bristol and Bournemouth O2 Academies, and they have some good stories and reflections on being part of the 80s electronic music boom, including Martin Ware’s early Human League years.

I went to the soundcheck in Bristol (cheers Dave) and they’re friendly guys who like a chat on stage or off.

With Heaven 17 soundcheck at Bristol O2 Academy – December 2018

They are one of those bands where you can forget how many chart hits they had. This makes it work as a support act: Play to win; Come Live With Me; Fascist Groove Thing for example. Initially I thought it was an odd fit but the era is right I guess. Unlike Heaven 17 though Squeeze have continued to record new material. Heaven 17 focus on the early 80s hits.

Their backing singers, who come to the fore at times, are fabulous.

Glenn Gregory H17 with Berenice Scott behind on keyboards

THE Sound of the Suburbs: The Members

The Junction, Plymouth 8.11.19

Friday night in Plymouth, well Mutley (Plain) to be more precise. Tonight it’s late 70s, early 80s punk revisited in The Junction pub. Headlining are The Members.

Sunbury Cross 1979

For me this gig tonight is pure and absolute nostalgia. One of the early Members’ singles ‘Sound of the Suburbs’, was an anthem of my youth – maybe the biggest – maybe the most relevant anthem of all. When it was released in 1979 I’d just moved from Ashford Common, not far from the rubbery smell of the Bendy Toys factory, and the roar of the Staines Road West to Sunbury – the leafy, frustratingly Tube-less, riverside suburb at the start of the M3.

My school mate Nick (NCo) lived round the corner and his sister knew the band, from further out in Camberley. That led to early purchases of the clear vinyl, label-less, cut out TV picture cover version of the ‘Sound of the Suburbs’ single. Bought from the Sunbury Cross ‘Record Scene’: a place we used to hang around and listen to new stuff at.

The first cut – clear vinyl

Coincidentally, The Members’ Jean-Marie (JC) Carroll produced a local band (most of whom were from our school in Hampton) The Dials’ first single which was put out on the shop’s Scene Records label (Scene 1).

Within weeks of the ‘Sound of the Suburbs’ release I remember being crowded around a portable radio at school (in the Lower Tower Room) listening to the charts when the single went in at something like number 26 (I looked, it was 23) – Top of the Pops beckoned and it peaked later in February at number 12. Suburban school mates, and even more urban ones (that I envied), were lapping it up. We were 16. The lyrics were ‘ours’:

“Same old boring Sunday morning; Old man’s out washing the car; Mum’s in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner; Her best meal, moaning while it lasts.
Johnny’s upstairs in his bedroom sitting in the dark;
Annoying the neighbours with his punk rock electric guitar’.

‘Heathrow jets go crashing over our homes’ – they did. And on the original cut was the sound of a very familiar station announcement “Staines, this is Staines…”, tragically removed from the later cut due to a royalties issue (?). This was a truly great anthem and has remained so for me for 40 years….yes in 2019 in a pub in Plymouth (yes, Mutley Plain to be more precise) when they played it, the grey hairs on the back of my neck still bristled.

Sound of the Suburbs from YouTube: https://youtu.be/NsHGnw1txLY

Pre-gig pint

A few beers in, at, up or on, Mutley Plain first (the locals’ll know which). At the top of the road, is The Hyde Park. Didn’t wander up there this time but worth a look for the fantastic array of old pub signs and general sign memorabilia – jugs, ash trays etc. If I remember right the food looked good if you can find a table.

With gig buddy Dave (DPi) again tonight, who leads us to the Dog and Duck. Swift one. Time for a sharp exit and on to The Fortescue where all the relaxed old punks are, amid a great selection of ales and a sea of band t-shirts. UK Subs is the most popular. I have mine on. Instant friends and knowing nods.

Then it’s back across the road to The Junction for tonight’s entertainment: TV Smith, Vice Squad and then The Members.

The Junction

The Junction holds 200 I read. 200 is a squeeze and involves packing people in everywhere with or without a view. If it’s full then armed with some discrete essential ear defence I’d recommend getting in the slightly separated part next to the stage and forget the bar – the gents is a distant dream.

The very exposed mixing desk at The Junction

Fortunately it is not as rammed full as the other time I came down here, in March this year, to see The Vibrators, 999 and The Lurkers.

TV Smith

Beyond a few classics from his days with The Adverts – ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ and ‘Bored Teenagers’ – I don’t know the TV Smith material. I have seen him before supporting The Skids in Frome at The Cheese and Grain, in June 2018, totally solo, as he is tonight. Certainly easier to grab some clearer photos at that one. It’s dark in here.

TV Smith greets the early birds

We stood near the bar and being solo this was a quieter and suitably introductory set which was lifted at the end with the aforementioned ‘Bored Teenagers’ and ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’.

Vice Squad

Formed in Bristol in 1979, Vice Squad got some momentum going around ’81 and ’82 but they had split up by 1985. A band I would have liked to have seen back then but it was probably more hardcore than the post punk/’new wave’ stuff I was going to see then. Same with The UK Subs for instance but I’ve got to see them both in the end. I’ve seemingly grown back into this genre as part of a positive regression.

Vice Squad 8.11.19

Lead singer Beki Bondage (erm …not her real name..it’s Rebecca 😎) restarted the band in 1997. She is now 56 – we have that in common.

Becki Bondage

I was really surprised just how good their set was. Good sound and more refined than the albums. Still fast and frantic with the occasional drift from late punk and Oi! into metal.

Last Rockers! Vice Squad

Highlights were, no surprise, ‘Last Rockers’ and ‘Stand Strong, Stand Proud’. We found a spot near their really very extensive, good value, merch stand with a nearby side hatch to see onto the stage. A £12 t-shirt was irresistible.

Hanging around afterwards in my new t-shirt with Rebecca ‘Bondage’.

The Members

There are two original members in the Members these days, as it’s been for many years: JC Carroll (Jean-Marie) and Chris Payne. Front man Nicky Tesco left them early on in the 80s and was soon to be spotted in a civil service office by my mate big Gra (GGu).

Back in 79/80 I saw them at Royal Holloway College near Egham. Huge glass windows down the side of the venue were smashed from outside half way through the set to give a bit of an edge to it. Skins? Hells Angels? Who knows? Rumours were rife.

The Members

As with most old punk bands these days, tonight was all smiles and relaxed. The trademark reggae/punk mix of The Members with occasional melodic guitar solos. Soho a-go-go, Chelsea Nightclub and the story telling Solitary Confinement stood out. Sound of the Suburbs of course, a bouncing room and everyone’s happy.

Chris Payne, me and JC Carroll after – from the suburbs

“…..Youth Club group used to want to be free; Now they want ANARCHY”. Ok maybe we don’t want anarchy any more but I look forward to hearing it all again in February at the Butlins Alternative Festival in Minehead.

My Vitriol on Islington High Street

Islington Assembly Hall 1.11.19

No, not an outburst in North London but a rare chance to see the band, My Vitriol, in the classic reborn civic building that is Islington Assembly Hall, or certainly hear them. I will get to the gig eventually.

A night out on Upper Street

Upper Street, the main street, the A1, Islington, heads north away from Angel tube station, festooned with restaurants, casual eateries, bars, theatres, venues, shops, and there’s even the old Screen on the Green cinema – yes there’s even a green. It costs a mint to live around here but there is so much going for it…..and there is a recently upgraded Premier Inn tucked behind the less original Angel Shopping Centre down near the tube station.

Tonight’s gig is about half a mile up Upper Street but so much temptation on the way.

The Nag’s Head is a good pick (cheers Chris for that one. CMe) down the tube station end and the slightly more spacious York pub over the wide bit of road is good for watching the football and spilling out on the pavement in the sunshine, if there is any. This Friday I’m starting with a Wild Beer ale in the Bull further up while menu browsing (another Chris intro) but on we go, passing the more conventional Fox on the Green (open for a loud, late one), passed the King’s Head theatre pub (very good but busy and we need to eat something) and on to…ahh what’s this?…Slim Jim’s Liquor Saloon. Totally uninviting, almost sinister, plain entrance but we remembered going in here after seeing what was billed as the last ever Eddie and the Hot Rods gig – at the O2 Academy in April. (I’m with my mate Dave tonight, as I was that night. DPi.)

Very sadly, Eddie and the Hot Rods’ lead singer Barrie Masters recently passed away, aged 63, and his funeral is in Southend on Wednesday.

Barrie Masters RIP
“Do Anything You Wanna Do”

Slim Jim’s Liquor Saloon

After the last special Hot Rods show we came to Slim Jim’s and got some added insight into Barrie, and the Hot Rods, from their guitarist Richard Holgarth who we found at the bar.

With Hot Rods’ Richard Holgarth in Slim Jim’s in April

This place is a corker: narrow, dark, sticky and rock’n’roll all over. It feels like you should order a Jack Daniels. It’s empty early on but a chance to survey the place, with a pint of Roadie Signature ale.

Slim Jim’s side wall

I honestly didn’t realise last time but most of the ceiling is ‘decorated’ with donated bras. Tonight I can only offer a supportive ankle sock, and my need is not over yet.

Believe me, they’re less obvious in darkness without a flash

We returned here after tonight’s gig. They have bands on here as well as a late DJ playing stuff I actually like and know. On looking at their website later I found they are linked to the saloon bar place I was in the last week in Tufnell Park, Eights and Aces. Both great.


On to The Taproom

Still not eaten yet. The repeated and foolhardily laddish phrase ‘eating is cheating’ is ringing in my ears. We are heading for a schoolboy error here. The doors open for tonight’s My Vitriol gig soon and the clock is ticking.

Into another smart looking bar (John Salt) further up the road on the left, with food, but all tables reserved, this is for a longer stay and we bail out…but then, almost at the venue, we stumble upon The Taproom. A feast of craft ale on offer and a pizza oven for a perfect no nonsense bite. Excellent.

I’m no Time Out. These are just some tips from a few trips up here, but have a look at this. Slim Jim’s strikes a chord with the Time Out bods too: https://www.timeout.com/london/blog/14-reasons-to-go-to-upper-street-in-islington-n1-042916

Islington Assembly Hall

The Assembly Hall is a classic civic building opened in 1930. After being closed in 1980 it was left as a store, until re-opening in 2010. Brass, dark wood, red carpets, art deco finishing and civic pride from an era when these sort of buildings were a priority for communities.

We had unreserved seating in the balcony, a timely relief given my current foot ailment, but the bar was downstairs and I so I had a look round.

Doors open at the Assembly Hall

Tonight’s bands are ready to go: Area 11, Novacub and My Vitriol.

Mix desk ready

Area 11

Area 11 are an indie rock band from Nottingham. The lead singer had a really strong voice. Shut your eyes and you might be expecting a hairy tattooed rocker but no.

Glad we got here early. I’d certainly look them up again.

Area 11 You Tube pick: https://youtu.be/9fMVdvuCekg


Novacub were next on, featuring drummer Louise Bartle and guitarist Russell Lissack from Bloc Party.

Louise Bartle fronts Novacub having started writing her own songs.

Louise Bartle – Novacub

My Vitriol

My Vitriol were formed in 1999 and their ‘Finelines’ album released in 2001 was really it – great album – attracted a lot of attention – good gigs and key festivals, but the one album.

Lead singer Som Wardner (born in Sri-Lanka) met drummer Ravi Kesavaram at university in London (UCL) and they started from there.

They had a single, ‘Always Your Way’, that got them to number 24 in the UK chart and on Top of the Pops, and two other singles from the Finelines album but the wait for a second album was a long one. When it came it was a crowd funded type of self release: ‘The Secret Sessions’.

Single ‘Always Your Way”: https://youtu.be/egoef0mWIeo

Som Wardner – My Vitriol
Ravi Kesavaram

Live there is certainly an essence of Muse about them, powerful full-on guitar, with fit inducing lights – I found out just now that they supported Muse a few times.

The lighting was quite unusual as for most of the gig it was hard to see the band. A quick snap from the balcony as they darted out of the shadows – we had nabbed a front row position and not many up there so quite handy.

Where are you?
My Vitriol – I think that’s them

Certainly enjoyed them and I hadn’t heard anything for years – the main single I knew and the Finelines album was my revision but this was quite unfamiliar ground.

Have they gone?
No – there they are
My Vitriol – elusive, in many ways

Before leaving us for the merch desk signings scrummage Som Wardner mused at doing a Brexit style encore….and just never actually leave.

My Vitriol at the merch stand

Well you won’t have learned much about the bands tonight from me, but a few tips to help a night out involving the lovely Islington Assembly Hall, or to help prompt you looking for an Islington gig.

Off back to Slim Jim’s Liquor Store. Gig numer 66 of 2019 is over.

Great Escape – The Rifles

London Roundhouse 26.10.19

The Rifles at The Roundhouse

At the end of last week I had already planned to be up in London for a few days off and added another to include The Rifles’ Roundhouse gig, marking the 10 year anniversary of their Great Escape album.

So nearly a disaster. After two days of laying about in a rented flat in Tufnell Park resting a dodgy ankle, I hobbled off with a crutch and my partner, on a foul night, to find a 393 bus to make the two mile journey to The Roundhouse at Chalk Farm.

Made it to the sanctuary of the handy Muang Thai restaurant nearly opposite the venue. As prompt, tasty and as good value as last time.

Got in to the venue shortly after the doors opening at 7pm. Not many about but I did notice that both The Enterprise Bar and Joe’s Bar opposite were pretty full early on as we passed, slowly – a lot of the audience were clearly in no desperate need to see the support bands. I had access to the Roundhouse members’ bar so was set on a seat at the front of that balcony bar to save my dodgy ankle. A relief to get there and secure seats – most grateful for that, and the lift up the two floors to it.

The side view is a bit different but it allowed me to enjoy what would otherwise have been a physical ordeal. (If a regular Roundhouse visitor there are various membership options available on the website to help support this active centre for various arts.)

I’d had a brief listen to tonight’s support bands during the week before – The K’s and The Moons – but they were basically new to me.

The K’s

Not a lot of people were inside and ready when the K’s kicked off: in fact it was suggested by frontman, Jamie Boyle, that it was touch and go if the band were going to get there in time for their slot after a six hour drive…but they did and launched themselves loudly, maybe too loudly in comparison to the other bands tonight.

Jamie Boyle – The K’s

All of of tonight’s bands have an essence of Weller, the Jam and varying degrees of Mod-ness. This is the punchier end. The K’s sound great and listening to some of their stuff since the gig, they are a band I would go and see again.

They have been going since 2017 and the standout numbers for me are Glass Towns – they are from Earlestown, St Helen’s area, between Liverpool and Manchester – and Sarajevo.

Have a listen to the excellent Sarajevo on You Tube: https://youtu.be/Nk-RjSd2HQg

The K’s – view from balcony members’ bar

(I do wonder if the  apostrophe that appears everywhere, nearly, in their name may end up going the same way as the one that lost its place in The B52s.)

The Moons

Less urgent and more psychedelic were The Moons. They have supported Ocean Colour Scene at The Albert Hall and the whiff of Weller and The Kinks is evident, making another good choice as support tonight.

The Moons

The Rifles

The place is pretty packed – not sold out – but packed inside the Roundhouse inner pillars, with a vocal and mobile audience. The gig is being recorded for the band’s first live album.

The Rifles are on – the crowd is in

I first saw The Rifles (from Chingford, North East London) several years ago at The Brook in Southampton and really enjoyed it. I wanted to come tonight, not just because the Great Escape is a top album to celebrate, but I was a bit disappointed with the short 30 minute set at Victorious Festival in August – just too little and too early on for a band like The Rifles I thought.

Photo opportunities from the balcony side bar are not best so just a few to mark my attendance. I loved the performance and the night, including all three bands. The General, Science of Violence and the title track, The Great Escape, are my favourite ones tonight live from that featured album, as they are on the album. Still it’s Local Boy that wins again for me, from the No Love Lost album.

The Rifles
Joel Stoker – The Rifles

A special night and one that will appear as a live album for The Rifles. I hobble out and get a lift back to Tufnell Park.

Lastly I’ll leave this classic clip below from You Tube – a bit different – Rifles’ main man Stoker taking trip down memory lane…well Green Street actually. Up the Hammers!


Crowd Surfing at the Boston Music Room – Oso Oso and Prince Daddy

Boston Music Room, Tufnell Park, London 24.10.19

New bands for me tonight and a new venue. A dip into some current New York Emo indie punk with ‘Oso Oso’ and ‘Prince Daddy and the Hyena’. Support band tonight are indie punky popsters, ‘Fresh’ from London.

I’m here with my partner’s son Ben to celebrate his birthday and help with my late 70s and 80s music rehab program, maybe. 😁 Yes tonight I am the oldest one in The Boston Music Room – no doubt – but does a ‘Grey Haired Gig Goer’ care? Naaaah. Gig 64 of 2019.

Tonight’s menu

‘Oso Oso’ are basically Jade Lilitri (not his real surname), from Long Beach, as the only permanent member, touring with his latest accomplices. Touring jointly with them, and alternating the headline spot, are ‘Prince Daddy and the Hyena’ from New York. Three and two albums each respectively and exploring the UK this year with some gigs selling out including this one at the 250 capacity Boston Music Room.

The mutually supportive arrangement extends to joining each other on stage during their sets and even the occasional stage dive and crowd surf.

The athleticism of the younger-than-my-average audience was impressive on the off-stage gymnastics front. My feet are rooted to the floor though as I prop myself up against a pillar in old-man-with-dodgy-ankle stance. I was especially in awe when one of the Oso Oso band members disappeared and moments later appeared, at speed, from the back of the stage and straight off the front for a high scoring crowd surf.

Kory Gregory of Prince Daddy
Prince Daddy and the Hyena

Kory Gregory’s rasping vocals are archetypal US newer punk style and at its most hoarse. This is their trademark. (That lad must do some gargling in the morning.) The audience participation, indeed the other band’s participation, was infectious. How could you not enjoy this I thought and I don’t know their stuff at all.

Oso Oso join Prince Daddy

I detected an audience reshuffle for the slightly more refined but no less energetic Oso Oso.

Jade Lilitri – Oso Oso
Jade Lilitri
Oso Oso – who is on bass? I don’t know.
Oso Oso

The surfing continued – my YouTube clip.

..and by the end everyone had piled in for the last song.

Thank you and goodnight from Oso Oso and Prince Daddy
..and a happy birthday to my gig buddy tonight, Ben, from Jade of Oso Oso

Support band – Fresh


This band was a really good start to the night. Poppy, punky and jingley jangley indie – Fresh – upbeat smiley tunes with edge. I liked this a lot.

If you left Altered Images, The Primitives and The Wedding Present in a studio for a while this is what might come out. I shall explore further.

A YouTube taster: https://youtu.be/KZ2bSRcf8p8

Kathryn Woods – Fresh

The Boston Music Room

To be honest I’d not heard of this place. More of a local destination in the main perhaps but The White Stripes, Blur and Sham 69 have all played here.

Opposite Tufnell Park tube station is the Boston Arms – a very spacious heart of the community feel old bar with screens, big TVs and good Guiness. Out of the pub door and upstairs is the Boston Music Room and this is next to another sister venue, The Dome.

Good range of ales in cans (including Roadie Signature IPA), bottles and on the pumps in the Music Room. The Aces and Eights Saloon Bar, over the road junction, is a pre-gig alternative – pizza and good ale range on pump and in the fridges.

Back in the Music Room small mirrors adorn the varied wooden clad pillars to ensure no out of sight hiding places and there is some saloon bar seating with tables to the side if you need a seat.

(I’m now hanging around in a flat in Tufnell Park resting my dodgy ankle. After 40 hours of this I’m hoping to get down to the Roundhouse later.)

Gary Numan, the new Numan

Bristol O2 Academy 22.10.19

New Sound of the Suburbs

Before leaving for LA Gary Numan grew up and lived around the suburban hinterland of Heathrow Airport where I spent the first 16 years of my life. On the edge of the big city with huge reservoirs dotted around – Ashford (Middx), Stanwell, Staines, Wraysbury, Slough. ‘Heathrow jets’…went…’crashing over our homes’, quite literally at one point.

I wasn’t particularly aware of that when Tubeway Army were appearing on Top of the Pops and being top of the pops when I was at school in 1979. Beggars Banquet, Tubeway Army and Numan’s record label had a shop in Kingston which was something of a local mecca but while the electronic era that grew after punk was part of listening to music as a youth I didn’t go to see any of his gigs or own any vinyl…more a jukebox choice for me.

In about 2001 I did have a ticket to see him in north London – the Forum – and after a date mix up I never got there – never done that before or since – but I didn’t see him live until the Dead Son Rising album tour in September 2011, in Bournemouth (Boscombe O2). I remember being surprised how powerful and heavy the sound was. A revelation to me. Subsequent albums have just got even better and I think the heavier versions of older Tubeway Army classics have also added to the new Numan.

I saw him back at the beautiful night club (The Opera House) that is Bournemouth O2 Academy on the tour after the release of the hugely successful ‘Savage’ album in October 2017 and was fortunate to get along to his rehearsals in Manchester last year before the orchestral tour. Great experiences. Wonderful big industrial sounds. I generally pop in my specialist music ear plugs when I need to, or I would be deaf by now, and I recall being near the speaker to get a photo or two and my chest cavity pulsating with the sound. My ears rang despite having the plugs in.

Tonight’s soundcheck in Bristol

Got to Bristol for a 3pm start as my gig buddy Dave had engineered the special bonus of the soundcheck. An opportunity to hear three or four songs as the sound check, get some photos with a bigger camera, closer up, get some stuff signed and meet some ‘Numanoids’ with deeper Numan knowledge and experiences. Amazing what you find out – they do know everything there is to know – including detail of the enforced high quality substitutions on the tour: including Gary’s previous producer Ade coming in on keyboards at short notice the gig before this.

Some soundcheck photos:

How close is too close Mr Numan?
Just checking the green lights work
Ade Fenton, late sub on keyboards
Guitarist Steve Harris.
Amazing foot pedal set up.

More on Steve Harris: https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2014/04/09/the-current-s-guitar-collection-steve-harris-of-gary-numan-s-band

Ade Fenton

Our pre-gig bonus was finished at 6pm giving not much time to get a bite at the excellent and practically speedy Wong’s Chinese restaurant round the corner. This allowed me to drop some stuff off including the bigger camera I would not be allowed to take in (expressly, and quite usual) and a few beers in the old pub – The Hatchet Inn – opposite the venue, full of various shades of black and a variety of Numan tattoos on show and some 79-80s sounds…obviously.

Skipped the support band, partly due to such negative reviews, and bit of an error in staying in the pub too long. ‘A schoolboy’ as we say.

Plenty of time for Numan coming on stage but the place was packed to the rafters when we got in.

The gig

I do like the side-on shape and elevated tiers of the tidy medium sized Bristol Academy. I have seen it this full just once and moving around is an effort, for me specifically with a booted strapped up ankle. We try a few upper tiers. I squeezed down a side balcony. These would give great views if you are in early and maintain a place on the rail…otherwise…No.

O2 Academy Bristol – Packed to the rafters
Numan takes the stage – view from a side balcony

I couldn’t really see at all from the top balcony so decided to go down to the main floor, persevere through the crowded stair wells and squeeze in a bit. Well worth it. Just don’t move and forget the bar.

We Are Glass

I couldn’t fault the set. Songs taken from 14 albums including 3 Tubeway Army ones and a new song, Intruder, the title track of the forthcoming Numan album. (Yes I have to refer to the set list after – I am not a well seasoned Numanoid. I’m new-Numanoid.)

The three from Savage, included opener ‘My Name is Ruin’ were up there and I was amazed at how good the heavier versions of ‘We Are Glass’ (the best) and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ were, with those gruff talky bits interspersed. Another favourite of mine: ‘Dead Son Rising’, which marked my new Numan interest.

Guitar hero!
Acoustic Gazza – Jo the Waiter

An overtly appreciative Numan says goodnight after picking up the guitar for a bit – acoustic – who’d ‘have thought eh in 1979.

It was a good night. My best Numan gig…not got the track record of the real Numanoids but I’m on the bus now.

All over til next time
The set list – thanks for posting on Facebook group Louise Barnes.