Gnod with The Black Arches @ The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea.

Friday 6 May 2022 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

This was to be the first gig I’ve attended since January 13, the first since we’ve been back in the UK and the first at The Piper since February 2020 when we went to see Penelope Isles; the last gig I attended before the country went into lockdown the following month. I was a little wary approaching this event as a number of people I follow on various social media platforms have caught Covid at gigs in the past month; while no one was particularly ill, I still didn’t want to join them on the ill list. As I write this two weeks after the event I am day three into a nasty head cold. I’d forgotten just how unpleasant a streaming nose and blocked sinuses can be, I guess it not being Covid is a blessing.

The headliners, Gnod, are an English psych/noise rock band that have been around in various forms since 2006, though they didn’t come into my radar until the 2017 album ‘Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine’, a title that surely attracts attention. They have released four albums since then, of which I have three, though the latest album ‘Hexen Valley’ has yet to arrive in my letterbox and is very late due to vinyl pressing issues.

I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight, the last records have been heavier and sludgier than the early drawn out psych jam style tracks which I have been listening to a lot lately.

The Piper has undergone a refurbishment over lockdown and is quite a bit bigger, with the stage moving 90 degrees into the new extension. This is good. What they haven’t fixed is the crap lighting, and tonight was pretty bad, The Black Arches under a red glow and Gnod under the even worse (from a photo perspective), blue.

The night started with a set from the Black Arches, a Hastings group led by the writer Gareth E. Rees. Gareth wrote the book ‘The Stone Tide’, comprised of part fiction/part non-fiction tales of Hastings. It was released just as I looking to move to St Leonards and was in part one of the reasons I decided to move here. The other, non-musical, Black Arches are three arches carved into the side of East Hill in Hastings in the 18th century. On a good day when the scrub is clear and viewed across the valley from west Hill, they look like the entrance to a church. No-one really knows why they were carved, possibly as an elaborate prank. It took three attempts for me to find them, finally achieving that goal in Jan 2021. As you would expect I wrote about them at the time.

I enjoyed The Black Arches set, they were a better band than last time I saw them, tighter and a bit heavier, maybe the sound last time was poor? Apart from going to a lot of gigs I know nothing about sound and systems, but to my ears the Piper has a decent PA, loud enough and oomphy enough to allow a good wall of noise that doesn’t sound like sludge. Anyway, The Black Arches set was good.

As the light was so poor I was shooting at a very low speed so some of the images are a bit blurry. These are the best of a poor bunch of images. Red light, it sucks.

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For the final song of their set the band were joined on vocals by Medway artist/poet/musician Sexton Ming, producing one of the best songs of their short set.

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You have to admire a band that has two drummers. The last band I remember seeing with two onstage was Swans and they were amazing and set a high bar for how well two drummers can synchronise a beat, before that it was probably The Fall, an even higher bar. Two drummers means a lot of volume for the guitars to compete with so it was loud, very loud; not oppressively so but definitely loud; my ears were still humming in the morning as I stupidly didn’t use the earplugs that were in my pocket.

I had a good position close to centre front. Paddy Shine, vocals and guitar, stood in front of the low stage, making it more difficult to take photos of the rest of the band as they were in deeper shadow. He has a very expressive face and it was interesting just watching his performance.

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The band played a few songs I recognised, none of the log slow jams with repeating keyboard and guitar riffs and drones, but I knew that due to the lack of keyboard on stage. The set was pretty aggressive, very much the heavier end of their musical spectrum.

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They started with ‘Regimental’, one of my favourites from the their second to last album ‘La mort du Sens’ (The death of meaning), followed by a track I didn’t know and then ‘Pink Champagne Blues’, also from the La Mort LP.

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The fourth track was the 15 minute , repeating two note ‘Spotlight’ off the most recent LP ‘Hexen Valley’. This was the track where the two drummers truly excelled, 15 minutes of pummelling in perfect synchronicity; with no apparent flagging; just fantastic.

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Spotlight was followed by two more songs from Hexen Valley, then a couple I didn’t recognise. The set finished with a cracking, fast version of my favourite of their heavier tracks ‘Bodies for Money’ from ‘Just say no to the psycho right-wing capitalist fascist industrial machine’, an album title that sums up the political stance taken in their lyrics.

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It was a great gig, well attended, loud, hot, sweaty and I enjoyed it immensely. I heard the following day that apparently the band did as well, and they will be back to play St Leonards on a future tour. Yay.

10 minute walk and I was home, who can ask for better than that.

Three Songs, No Flash. The Beths @ Whammy Bar

Wednesday 12 January 2022 – Auckland

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Before I start here is a quick note for anyone who landed here from a Google search while looking for information on The Beths Whammy Bar series. I couldn’t find the stage times elsewhere. This was from the Wednesday night performance so may not reflect the following nights.

  • Other than Friday 14 Jan, all five Auckland shows are sold out.
  • Doors at 7:00, the support band, Lips were on stage at 8:00 and The Beths on soon after 9:00.
  • A vaccine pass was required; most of the punters were wearing masks (yahoo).
  • Whammy has been proactive and installed some much needed, and very efficient, air-conditioning. The staff were great too.
  • Capacity has been reduced from 210 to 170 which made a massive difference to space.

The most important thing you’ll want to know; was the Wednesday gig any good? Hell yes, of course!

After the obligatory ‘Hi, we’re The Beths from Auckland New Zealand’, the band started with the fabulous oldie ‘Happy Unhappy’ with its poptastic ‘oh-uh’ opening, before launching into a set that seemed to have more tracks from the first LP than the second. All the ‘hits’ were there as you would expect so I doubt anyone will leave disappointed their favourite song wasn’t played. They introduced three new songs, unusually closing the encore with one of them, the very un-Beths like rager ‘Silence is Golden’, a track I’m looking forward to hearing on record.

If you have not heard The Beths and you like indie pop with great musicianship and witty songs with the best vocal harmonies New Zealand has produced since The Muttonbirds, then you definitely need to check them out. Then go buy some records. They are a great band, seem like lovely people and deserve to be huge, though not stadium huge as I hate stadium gigs. The Beths are doing a good old fashioned five night residency at the freshly post-lockdown re-opened Whammy Bar on Auckland’s K’ Rd.

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My favourites ‘Future me Hates me’, ‘Uptown Girl’ and ‘I’m not getting excited’ were played at pace and were fabulous, as was ‘Jump rope gazers’. With so many people masked up the crowd singing along was slightly muted too, an unexpected bonus!

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Australian artist Stella Donnelly was supposed to play the support slot but was unable to attend due to the travel restrictions. The Beths played one of her songs ‘Tricks’ in tribute, I thought that was the weakest song of the set.

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We saw a great The Beths set at Heaven in London in August 2019, along with 1100 other people, though this much more intimate venue really suits their personalities. The on stage and audience banter worked so much better here and at times it felt like it was a sing-along with mates rather than a public show. With fewer people than normal Whammy Bar was the best it has been, the sound was excellent, particularly at the back and the lighting was not too terrible for photography, though I still had to convert to mono as the colour cast was pretty bad 🙂

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I stayed at the front taking photos for the first three songs before heading to the raised area at the back to stand with Eleanor to enjoy the rest of the show.

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I have not heard support band, Lips, before. I thought they were OK, they had some good songs, the first couple and the last were the standouts for me.

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While Covid rates are (thankfully) incredibly low in New Zealand we all know how virulent the omicron variant is and we won’t know it’s in the community until it’s in the community. Getting Covid right now, just before we head off on holiday, and then back to London would be just so ironic. With that in mind I (we?) was a little tentative in the hours before the gig; this was only the second show we’ve gone to since Feb 2020 when we saw Penelope Isles in St Leonards. The last gig we went to was Deathcrash in July 2021 and it was a fully seated, socially distant event held in a Hackney church. The lack of shows was not through lack of desire; there were none in the UK before we left for New Zealand, and when we arrived in Auckland we went straight into lockdown. Gigs have just started again and we were so glad we got to go this one before we leave. It was originally scheduled for September and had been postponed twice before.

For a return to standing gigs we couldn’t have picked a better one. It was a fun show; great band, good sound, busy but not packed venue, and most importantly smiles round (as far as I could tell as the majority of the audience were wearing masks).

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3 nights, 3 gigs.

Friday 23 March 2018 – London.

Walking out of the Tufnell Park Dome into the cool and drizzly north London night, both ears ringing, I had a big smile on my face after two loud gigs in two nights. Guitar Wolf last night and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing tonight.  A very much needed blow out after a really busy  and stressful work week. Six performance reviews completed, meetings galore and an inundation of last minute requests had me thinking that three nights out in a row would just be too much to take and I would not last the distance.

We are very fortunate here in Walthamstow to have the e17 Rock and Roll Book Club. Run by Mark, he organises authors to come along and talk about themselves and their books. Most often these authors write about music or are musicians themselves. A couple of weeks ago we had Brett Anderson, the singer from Suede. Tonight (Wednesday) we have Hooky at Mirth, Marvel and Maud. Peter Hook, bass player from Joy Division and New Order. Joy Division being one of my most loved groups of all time, arriving in my life at the same time as the break up with my first girlfriend. Staying with me through both good and bad times ever since. 

Hooky was hugely entertaining. I don’t think he directly answered any of the questions posed, not trying to avoid, just he had way better anecdotes that wandered off in many different directions. Very funny, and very engaging. He also played a couple of quick tunes as part of the show, the longest of the many e17 RnR Book Club events we have been too.

Mirth, Marvel and Maud is a large bar in the foyer/reception area of a reclaimed cinema about a five minute walk from home and a fairly recent addition to a rapidly gentrifying Walthamstow. The Maud theatre, where the Hooky talk was, stands about 120 people maybe and was the venue for Thursday nights much different and much louder affair. A gig by Japanese punk and rollers, Guitar Wolf. This was the first gig I have attended in the venue.

We missed the first band, arriving in time for the second, Los Pepes. Slightly clichéd Ramones style punk rock with a bit of lead guitar thrown in for good measure. I really liked them. I was really impressed with the sound quality and having a gently sloping floor meant those of us at the back had some sort of view. Why are there so many tall people at gigs? I took to the front  for a couple of songs to take a couple of photos. If I had been younger and the circumstances different I would have been tempted to jump up and down a bit.  A shame no one did as the band deserved some sort of reaction.

Sadly the same quality of sound was not there for the headliners. Guitar Wolf have been around for decades, they have been to NZ a few times, though I have never seen them.

They were unlistenably loud; and I love loud, even more I love a wall of noise, but this was just a sludgy overdriven mess and I could hear nothing but a roaring noise. I was really disappointed as they were a bit of fun.

I stayed up the front for a couple of photos and then moved to the back for a bit with El and some friends. Frustrated, and deaf, we left soon after. The light was pretty terrible for photography as well.

Friday I was in Tufnell Park with Steve and Arthur to see The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing (TMTWNBBFN). Steve has seen them a few times, but this was my first experience of a live steam punk band. I was also new to the Dome,which is a great venue and I will go and see a band there again, great bar and selling my favourite beer was a definite bonus.

There were three support acts, the first two were neither here nor there, but I really enjoyed ‘I Destroy’ who were by miles the best of them.

TMTWNBBFN were mostly brilliant, a couple of dud tracks in the middle, but they were a lot of fun, playing a variety of different styles, but not veering too far from a punky/metal sound. Lyrics are where they truly excel, songs about Victoriana, Marie Curie, Jack the Ripper; and the set finale is the classic rock and roll tale of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Everyone’s favourite civil engineer.  Brilliant!

Three nights out in a row, haven’t done that for a very long time; and I didn’t even have a big lie in the next Saturday! I have tickets to five more gigs, I have never been this well organised in the past. Really looking forward to them all, next up is Graeme Jefferies in Auckland in four weeks.

Rock on 🙂

Spectres @ The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington.

April 20 2016, London.

Bristol band Spectres’ debut LP ‘Dying’ made it through 2015 as my album of the year. There was some great music released last year, but Dying got played a lot and gets played a lot in 2016 as well. A follow-up LP is due sometime this year, and both times I have seen the band they have played new material that may or may not appear on this new LP. I will have to wait and see.

While I, and others, wait for this new album Spectres recently released a remix album of Dying called ‘Dead’. There are remixes by a couple of artists I really like, such as Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai fame, Richard Fearless and Andy Bell from Ride. The vinyl copy arrived on the day we went to New Zealand, but I did get the download code and listened to the LP a few times while I was away. It is OK, not fabulous, there are some great remixes and some that do nothing for me at all. I do like guitar noise far more than synths and computers.

When the band announced two shows at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington I was definitely not going to miss out so grabbed a ticket before we went away.

I wasn’t overly keen on either support band, and being incredibly fussy I arrived at the venue at what should have been half way through the set of the second support. They hadn’t even started. I watched a bit of their set before retiring to the pub upstairs for a quiet drink and a seat. If I had arrived earlier and managed to have been closer to the stage with a better view I may have stayed as they looked like they could have been a bit of fun.

I went back down to the basement venue once the support audience had cleared and got my self a spot near the stage. I was hoping to get a few decent photos so took along the Canon 5d. I should have known from the last time I saw them that they would pretty much play in the dark. Sadly my old 5d does not do really low light – unlike the newer models, though I think even those would have struggled tonight.

I grabbed this one of the bass player during the sound check. The last time there was any light even closely usable for non-flash photography.

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What did make some photography possible was the use of strobes from half way through the set, though they were poorly placed on the ceiling rather than down low, I managed to time a few shots right and got some images lit up by strobes.

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Even though there is not much detail, and the guitarist is blurred, I like this photo the best.

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The set was loud, I mean really loud, I have been to loads of shows over the years, but this was definitely one of the loudest I have been too. I am glad I took ear plugs. I usually take them but rarely use them, for tonight’s gig, they were essential.

IMG_9841-EditThe last time I saw them the set was just played on guitar, bass and drums. With the new remix LP they mixed it up a bit playing some tracks with a bit of electronica, it worked on some and not on others. It was still interesting. A fifth member came on stage for one of the tracks,

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As they came on stage so late I did not get to see the end of the set. Disappointingly I had to leave to get the train home, so missed what was probably a good finale!

It was a good, and too short a show and I liked the venue as well.

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Ride @ Brixton Academy.

Wednesday 13 October 2015 – London.

I have a confession to make. I love music. I mean, I really, really love music.

Lots of people say that they love music, and they may well think they do, but after a bit of gentle interrogation I usually find that they really like music, most of the time. A bit like they love puppies and small children and other things that distract from the important things. Like music, for instance.

My love for music started in December 1988 on a trip back to the UK with my family. I was 16 and my childhood friend Nick played me the Buzzcocks song ‘Promises’. It was love at first listen, complete and total. I had enjoyed music before this momentous day, some could even say I had loved music. I was a fan of heavy rock, of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple – my first LP was a birthday gift of Deep Purple’s Burn. I had even flirted with disco when Saturday Night Fever was taking over the world, but I had not found my true love, and to be honest I didn’t know true love really existed.

I had missed the whole punk thing. New Zealand is small, and was a long way behind the rest of the world, and without older siblings of my own or knowing anyone really connected with local music I had never heard anything like it. I believe it did literally change my life. I started my final year at school when I got back to New Zealand after Christmas and the first thing I did was look for others who had heard this amazing noise – and over time my social group changed as I met other like minded people. I bought my first records. The Clash ‘Give ‘em enough rope’ was the first LP I bought with my own money. Once I started working it was gigs and records and parties where only MY music was played. I turned into a true music snob – If I did not like your music taste then you would never be my friend. It was not pretty, this lasted for many many years – I have mellowed a bit, I think.

I was, and am still, very fussy about music. I like what I like, and it is within a very narrow band. I did finally move on from punk, though I still like and listen on those rare occasions when yelly music is required. My tastes are a little more publicly acceptable – I still like guitar orientated music, but now acknowledge there is a place for keyboards, in the right place. I think it is finally time to admit to myself that really I like pop music, I do not mean popular music, just music that is a bit pop. Lots of melody a bit of vocal harmony, jangly guitars, solid beat, but…. There has to be a bit of a racket going on as well, it cannot be all sweetness and light. There can be sweetness and light, in fact I like that, but only if it is all descends into some noisy feedback, overdriven chaos. Which leads me to Ride.

In 1990 the Oxford band Ride released their first EP Chelsea Girl on the Creation label. I am not sure when I first heard it, but it must have been soon after its release. It was a great song, sweet and jangly and then nice and noisy, I loved it, and then I never heard it again for years. I bought their first album Nowhere soon after it came out later in 1990 and it has remained a favourite album of mine since. I still had not heard Chelsea Girl again, it was not on the album and while the song itself faded from my memory the fact that I liked it did not and I did not get to hear again until well into the Napster days when I finally found an illegal download of it. It immediately became one of my favourite songs again, and slips in and out of being my favourite song of all time. I finally got a copy on a CD compilation of their first three EPs. I still want it on vinyl though…

Ride split in acrimonious circumstances in 1996. They never came to New Zealand so I never got to see them play. They reformed last year for a few shows and I tried to get tickets to their first London gig, but missed out. I wasn’t prepared to go to a festival to watch them so sort of forgot about seeing them again.

A couple of weeks ago they announced a series of shows to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Nowhere, I jumped straight on to a ticket booking website and grabbed two tickets for the show at the Brixton Academy in London. Yes !!!

El could not make the concert so I ended up going to down to Brixton on my own. In 2008/9 I did a small amount of gig photography and got quite used to going to concerts on my own, so while I would have liked to have shared one of my favourite bands playing one of my favourite all time albums, being on my own was OK as well.

I arrived at the venue early enough, raised a second mortgage on my house so I could afford to buy a can of beer and sat myself down upstairs. I had decided to get an upstairs ticket, I was never going to get close enough to the front to take a photo so the front of the balcony was a good second choice. I took the little Canon G16 as I was not sure if they would let me take a DSLR in. My spot was not the best, but I took a few photos, very high ISO and a bit far away, they are not my best work. A good memory for me though!

Ride were supporting themselves in this show, playing a first set of classic songs, mainly from their second album ‘Going Blank Again’, followed by the Nowhere album. It all kicked off nice and early at 8:00pm.

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They were fantastic, playing most of my favourite songs in the first set, starting with Leave Them All Behind and ending with the wonderful Mouse Trap. The lighting was brilliant and the sound quality was superb. The band are playing better than ever and are incredibly tight, with the solid rhythm section of Loz Colbert on drums and Steve Queralt on bass holding it all down for the twin guitar/twin vocal attack of Andy Bell and Mark Gardener.

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There was a good crowd, and they were really getting into it.

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After a short break they returned to play the Nowhere album from start to finish. My favourite track from the album is Polar Bear, and I really expected this to be brilliant and noisy and a bit of a squall, but it wasn’t. It was still great but just a little too clean sounding for me. What did surprise was the last track on the album and the one I always liked least, Nowhere. Live it was fantastic, a highlight of a really good set.

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Andy – 10 years as the bass player for Oasis, mod haircut and sun glasses – and a lovely Rickenbacker guitar.

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I went downstairs to the main hall for a short while at the end of the set, it was really packed down there and I could barely get in through the door. Sadly there were too many people hanging round at the back chatting so I went back up stairs and, after getting told off by security for standing at the top of the stairs, took another seat closer to the centre of the venue.

The album cover for Nowhere is a classic, and has been the inspiration for a few photos over the years. Including this one I put on Flickr in 2008. I named it Chrome Wave, after a Ride song.

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The Nowhere record sleeve was used as the backdrop between sets.

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There was another short break before they came back on for the encore. They played Drive Blind, which is a fabulous song, one of their earliest and it really did not disappoint. A mix of sweet pop with a massive wall of noise break in the middle. Fantastic. I have read that this is often the final song in their set and was gutted that Chelsea Girl had not been played, but thankfully, I was wrong. As the last chords of Drive Blind faded Andy Bell, plucked the first few notes of what is again my favourite song of all time and I jumped with joy…

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It was a great gig, almost perfect. There was only one song in the first set that I did not recognise. The sound was really good throughout, lighting was great and the band fabulous.

Andy, Mark, Loz and Steve  – thanks for a great evening and some fantastic songs!

Here is Chelsea Girl from a gig at the same venue, but from 1992….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPbNp2LnBOM

The Buzzcocks thing is not actually true. Nick first played me ‘Hanging on the telephone’ by Blondie which was (and is) a great song. This was immediately followed by the Buzzcocks track. Sadly in my musically snobbish world, having Buzzcocks as a first love is much cooler and I pretty much wrote the Blondie episode out of my memory.