I venture for Rock far out West tonight to Buckley, a small town stuck between the Town of Mold and the larger Chester. Tivoli is one of those venues you wouldn't expect to do well when it comes to rock concerts purely based on its location. As some of you, my oldest followers will know, I have been many times to Chester's Live Rooms and more often than not, it has been a struggle for them to get 50 people in there. I arrive in good time to The Tivoli, the old theatre/cinema from the 1920's which is rather empty and as I wait patiently for the support band under no less than 6 disco balls, I have grave concerns regarding the demographics and live attendance in North Wales. In a corner, Mind the mental health charity sets up a stall selling CDs to fundraise, I manage to pick up a Stone Sour and a Stereophonics. At the merch stall, the support act from Stoke, Headsticks is offering the most varied items you can put your band name on, while the Wildhearts team is trying to figure out which boxes to open.
Going to a gig while England is playing a soccer game in a World competition can only mean two things. First Paul will inform me at short notice of his unavailability to attend the gig for reporting duties, second, the M62 as well as Manchester could be part of the set for a new series of The Walking Dead, if it wasn't for the lack of tumbleweed.
The groove has gone. It’s been a month, a long time in rock and roll. Friends have fell out, families argued, jobs have changed and life has stamped it’s leaden boot over everyone. The countdown begins, a tradition that might cut short this escape one day. Johann is agitated, tense probably hungry. There’s a rasp in my voice, I’m lethargic from doing fuck all, all day, every day. I can feel Hyde’s shadow creeping through the axons. I want the bands to be terrible, I want the pressure in my head to burst out of my hands and evaporate the keyboard. It’s at this point Johann points out we have fifty miles in the tank and the coolant is leaking out, but he has a 16 seater death wagon somewhere, lurking in our near future.
An admission, nothing too shameful, I can’t drive. The thought like an itch scratches the inside of my skull, we are powering along the M62 towards rebellion. Johann is nursing a can of lemonade. Rehydration, he looks fucked, it was a long night. “Fuck it”, he shrugs, accent thick with nonchalance. I’m inclined to agree. Friday was a good gig, I have high hopes for tonight. I grew-up fast, on 70’s swagger, eighties excess, my first night out was my mates thirteenth Birthday, it was a different time then. I had a denim jacket, arms cut off, patches everywhere, like a less ginger mate of John Connor minus the mullet and PTSD.
We knew for certain we where going to see Bonafide, Swedish, denim, sports shoes and more than a seasoning of high energy, short fuse rock and roll. What we didn’t know then, there would be three other bands of equally high energy and full of punk, blues and rock so prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s.
In a complete Juxtaposition to the previous evenings night of mellow blues, Rebellion in Manchester was serving metal on an industrial scale. The tight, noisy little venue is situated on a corner in the upmarket area that is Deansgate. Nestled among trendy restaurants and wine bars, this is wonderfully grungy bar. I like to think it reminds the normal that we are still here, angry, disturbed and wild. So it was great disappointment that the event kicked off behind schedule meaning we had to queue, outside, in the rain. Thankfully before the rust set in on the less than industrious queue we where ushered inside. A small dimly lit venue, I was immediately home. I don’t like seated venues for music. It steals the vigour and energy from a crowd. Makes meek the heckler. So tonight, was after two or three seated affairs, refreshing. We were not entirely sure if 3Teeth had organised support, they had, a London Duo called Creepiing who have an incredibly low online presence.
Late, early, on time! Not usually an issue for press given that access is given by the bands/promoter. Not so tonight though. We were told 19:30 doors, support starts at 20:00. Steve Hill was well under way when we arrived at 19:45. The Epstein Theatre is a weird and magical auditorium, a venue designed for dance, plays and Vaudeville. The stage is deep and wide, it lends itself to that very specific kind of stage ownership you don’t see often enough.
I tend towards social media sound bites when compiling a review at the actual venue. I email myself two and three-word descriptions unless my thought process absolutely warrants more. So it was with some amusement on Saturday morning when I read the opening gambit from last nights flurry of emails.
Old school sweeps. Esoteric winged horse imagery.
It’s Wednesday and hopefully, with the first balmy day of the year we turn our back on one of the longest winters for a generation. Manchester streets are trying hard, shorts, hot pants and sunglasses are out. We aren’t quite there yet, but we northerners don’t know when we might get a consecutive day without rain. It’s a well-travelled route to the academy, I’m starting to recognise the yellow jacketed security staff. Rockflesh founder and all round photographic wizard, Johann, the brobdingnagian European has left his phone in the car. This is a problem, we aren’t down on the press list and the staff aren’t volunteering options. Back to the car. After a few calls we get in touch with the tour manager, Bill. Problem solved.
The Academy 3 is a rectangle, bar, mixing desk & stage, all in line. The sound has no where to escape, a wind tunnel of rock and roll. The stage is small, a four piece fills the stage and there is an absurdly large gap for pro photogs (take note Hangar 34). In a venue this small, there isn’t the sense of anticipation, people lean awkwardly at the sides of the hall, or meander around waiting for focus.
An injection of Heavy Metal was on the cards this past Saturday at the Academy 3 in Manchester with the London based metal newcomers Savage Messiah on their UK tour supported by The Raven Age.
Fresh from a recent Japanese tour, currently on their UK tour and with an appearance in the pipeline at the Download Festival later on in June, they seem unstoppable. I did say 'newcomers', and maybe they aren't exactly as they formed in 2007 and are now promoting their 4th release, the excellent 'Hands Of Fate'.
This Thursday led me to the glitzy ballroom of the O2 Ritz for an evening of symphonic metal, courtesy of the Dutch band Epica currently on their UK tour.
As I got to the ticket office to pick up my photo pass, I found out progressive Oceans Of Slumber and Myrkur were the support acts for the evening. I am one of those who do my research post-gig, it allows me to take new bands at face value with no misconception, whatever they may be. Considering that Epica musical genre is far from being mainstream, unbeknown to me, they have acquired a decent following in the UK as the venue is nicely packed early.
Quireboys were at the Manchester Academy 3 last Friday but unfortunately no guest pass for me. Not one to miss out on Rock or Metal for the lack of a plan B, I headed to the small basement of a Manchester pub where foreign beers are served, The Peer Hat.
As I went down the stairs and entered the room, Paladin were in full swing, rocking out on a rather small stage for 6 band members. The poor lighting situation of this place like so many other venues definitely wasn't going to help me tonight, but I would try to make the most of it.
As this week was rather quiet on the Metal scene in the North-West, I remembered that I was invited to Mammothfest Heat 2 at The Live Rooms in Chester by In Depths. One of those battle of the bands style competition to gain access to a stage at the Brighton based Mammothfest festival this summer.
As I got to the Live Rooms, I found the place to be anything but live, not surprising considering that the venue did not bother to advertise the event on their own website.
Bad Touch, the Norwich born rockers clad in paisley shirts and leather waistcoats, swagger comfortably between that very British brand of classic rock and country blues. They have previously toured with the likes of The Quireboys and Tyketto. Bad Touch are a rockier outfit than either of these bands and it is no surprise to learn that they have undertaken their own tours on the back of their 2015 release Half Way Home.
In my previous post, I mentioned how I felt the rock scene was well and truly happening in the Northwest with an endless list of local bands performing for anyone who took the time to rock out between snow storms. Last Friday night, Massive Wagons at Rebellion with the support from Manchester's KYNGS and Welsh Henry's Funeral Shoe only reinforced that feeling.
While currently recording their 3rd album, the Manchester based progrock band, Twisted Illusion find the time to perform over the UK in support of last year's double album "Insight To The Mind Of A Million Faces".
Anvil is Anvil, a band which came out of Toronto back in the early 80's influencing today's most popular metal acts. The release of the rockumentary "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" in 2008 certainly helped them gaining a renewed interest. But could a gig on a subfreezing Sunday night in the rather small town of WIgan attract the most diehard metalheads?
Last night, We SIgnal Fire were on the second date of their UK mini tour at the Manchester Academy Club to support the recent release of their new album "Still Sick // Still Human". Not only they were supported by the punky grungy Lowlives, but 3 other relatively local bands.
After a slight delay due to a missing bass player, Soldato kicked in with their brand of classic hard rock.
The Liverpool progrock band Exploring Birdsong left me baffled as I got nearer to the stage. "What! no guitar? but 2 keyboards! Who's playing the second keyboards? The bass player! Of course!".
Considered the pioneers of the Symphonic Metal genre and led by the composer and founder Christofer Johnsson, Therion were performing at Rebellion in Manchester last night.
Supported by the girl fronted German metal band with the dynamic Elli Berlin, Null Positiv started the proceedings. Next was Imperial Age, the Symphonic Metal Russian act.
Who can argue that Operation: Mindcrime is one of the greatest metal concept albums of all time? - and arguably one of the finest that rock & roll in general ever produced. I’d pretty much worn the tape threadbare back in the late ’80’s on my blag Walkman, in the days were teenagers used to walk everywhere with a bag full of ferric tapes. The album struck a chord with me at a time when Rock and Metal music was to me in its transcendence; it became my life, as did this album.
30 years on (where the hell did that go?) and NOW my phone has unlimited access to millions of songs covering all that man has created. I’m regularly drawn back to Mindcrime. It sounds better than ever after the remastered job of 2003 and it’s part of my rock DNA, spiraling through my soul.