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.
It’s still kind of odd too see young men, all plaid and hair, find a connection to music thirty or forty years their senior. It’s testament to that brand of blues fuelled, punk hearted rock and roll that gave us AC/DC, Aerosmith & GnR. Thematically, music by nature tends towards cliché, goes over old ground, ultimately, it’s the interpretation of the old by the young that keep things fresh. Black Cat Bones saunter to the stage, they are excited, no doubt, the crowd isn’t large. Thirty maybe less, strangers though, give them that slight tingle. They haven’t quite figured ‘the look’, it doesn’t matter to them, the music is strong, tight and familiar. Adam Kerbache, credited as rhythm, lead and vocals is sporting a Charvel San Dimas in cobalt blue, maple fretboard, a JB and a 59 in the body, it’s a beast, an underrated leviathan of Rock. Alan Rimmer, he of lead and rhythm is sporting a classic combo, Les Paul through a Marshall. The combo of old and new is intense, the guitars are clear and crisp. James Hayward is, and I don’t say this lightly, the archetypical metal bass player, in looks. It took me a second to place him in the band, how it worked, how he fitted in. The light switch came, he’s Duff, but for this time. Sporting the Metallica Tee, head down, animal savant he gives them an edge. As "Silverline" begins I’ve almost ignored the singer, Dan Byrne, a late pre-season transfer from Black Diamonds, he is a diminutive powerhouse, I watch as he works the mic, he’s thinking about how it sounds, there is passion and a musical maturity beyond their years. Down to the River is a swaggering, big chorus singalong, these five scouse rockers brought a taste of the Mersey to Manchester and we should all be grateful. Black Cat bones gave a stand out performance on the night, their final track Silverline is a fast-paced blues powerhouse, reminiscent of Mamakin.
It was at this point, as we sat in the Garden of Rebellion that we realised that there was four bands. The advertising was disjointed, one bands flyer only had two bands as playing and not the main band of the night, while online there was no mention of the aforementioned bands. So it was with some surprise we heard music bounce through the doors within minutes of Black Cat Bones departure. The New Breed, are more eclectic in appearance than Black Cat Bones, a seventies styled guitarist partnered by a tightly styled lead and rhythm, with a singer more akin to the late Chester Bennington. Then a tight punchy, bouncy riff. I’m foot tapping almost from the start, I can sense a hint of free, the singer has a strong tuneful voice, a throwback to Paul Rodgers, long, sustained notes of a blues bounce around the room. The guitarist, in pink DM’s throws his SG around, the singer throws himself to the floor, screaming from his knees, drawing the energy straight from the wooden stage. The sound is good, I can hear the vocals, the solos are crystal and the drums are working the small crowd. Up until now the set has been energetic, but nothing jumps out, they are tight, and the songs, hooks and all are present, I’m waiting, wanting a moment. It’s always the same, I want that stand out riff, or break or verse that gets you off the grid and in the game. Then at once is gargantuan riff, the band as one flow with the crests and valleys of the phased guitars, the song Monkey (working title from the as yet unreleased new EP) belches out. It has the feel of first hearing Monster Magnet. This is the road they should take. Waves of phased guitar crash into the ageing crowd. The New Breed have something, a singer with a big voice, and some good rock songs. The next step is theirs to take.
As soon as Greybeards hit the stage, before a note is played, they have a quirky spark, Olle Westlund (Vocals & Guitar) and Simon Mojtahedi (Bass) are jumping around, a private joke who’s meaning is irrelevant. I’m reinvigorated, hopeful. They are more polished than the previous two bands, they have a simple look, the riff, quiet and repeated feels proggy, Olle’s voice sounds like Geddy Lee. “ Come Undone” sprints through the first fifty yards taking the crowd with it. They are much more-hard rock, fast repeated lines, long vocal melodies. Olle isn’t Dragonborne, but he has the voice of the mighty mountain dwellers who’s name adorns the band. The tempo is relentless and needed, I’m starting to really feel involved in the night. They have a feel of the Foo Fighters, large rangy chords played at a ferocious pace. The guitars compliment each other, these are a well disciplined band. The singer makes fun of the bass player, he asks him to remove his foot wear, he flicks his pump off, it flies, freely in my direction. I’m saved by the edge of the cage. Swedish feetballs is not a good taste, regardless of how much Amstel I’ve consumed. I’m starting to get distracted though, I’m three pints in, I’ve packed in smoking and the call to the garden, to the shop, anywhere there is that slender tube of death. I fight it, concentrate on the band, do the job. A slight arpeggio rings out, a picked chord then bash, a chiugalong, anthem. “One in a billion, you lucky one” the band cries in unison. This is more Judas than the other tracks, it’s that very unique Scandinavian take on eighties metal. The folksy and quite beautiful “Peace of mind”, more like the toned down Opeth brings a slower tempo to the night. Greybeards are a good live band, fresh and lively with a good depth of styles. They stood apart from the other bands with their fresh approach to keeping older styles from being dated.
Concentration is thinning, we aren’t prepared for four bands. Johann shows me Bonafide’s set list and I laugh, loudly. 21 (Twenty One, my vide printer took exception) songs. It’s about ten when Pontus Snibb and co step up. The crowd cheer, they oddly have formed a height ordered, regimental row of three. The average age is fifty and counting, a couple of interlopers have started dancing in the corner, they stand out, white t shirts, Beiber pants and trainers. By the end of the night these two are singing along, caught up in a weird tribute to Bonn Scott. Pontus likes that staccato unison picking style made most famous by Angus Young. At least four songs start in this way. Pontus looks the part, he’s fit, he’s wearing all denim with puma suede, it makes him look more youthful than they should. Mattaes Ekelund on bass looks stone faced, a happy, giant, stone faced man in stacked heels. There’s a technical problem, rather than hold the gig up, 21 songs, Pontus sprints to the sound desk, has a very quick word and sprints back for the chorus. That’s experience. He’s turns away an offer of a pint in favour of vodka and orange. The songs are not ear bleeders, the distortion is kept to a minimum, Pontus is a confident and able guitarist, getting the most from his SG. We’re about half an hour into the set, the songs are starting to blend, I realise I’ve been people watching for the last two songs, Johann is staring at the stage, but I can see he is deep within the landscape of his own life. I can’t tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes when I listen to early AC/DC the sameness of the music like a sluggish journey, helps me get away from the thoughts that make you shiver, the anxieties.
I wonder in all this hat tipping where the real Pontus lives, where is his voice, then he does a quick vocal guitar melody, that very Hendrix way of singing the guitar line. It sounds alive, the music steps aside and Pontus breathes new life into it with every harmonised note. That’s where Pontus lives. The crowd have started dancing, swept up. I am walking through them, to get a better angle. They look more impressive from the front. More composed. The incredibly catchy intro to "One Kiss", whips the crowd up, a small but energetic man goes wild. "One Kiss" is a Darkness inspired riff a minute, dance rock track. I look at the side of the stage and my female counterpart has taken a seat on the steps, it’s been a long night of rock, its been a good night, but it’s taking its toll. Bonafide finish the set with the superbly catchy "Fill your head with Rock", a classic in its own right, and as predicted the two interlopers, who came for a laugh are arms aloft singing the best song of the night, and as they leave there is no doubt their heads are filled with rock.
Black Cat Bones : Seen Better Days : Give you the world : Lust : Down to the River : Hold me Down : Silverline
The New Breed : Should’ve seen it : Soul Train : Y & R : Lie to Me : Mercy : Monkey.
Greybeards : Come Undone : Free: Take the Fight : Cold December : You Struck Me : One in a Billion : Insane : Peace of Mind : The Nerve
Bonafide : see picture for setlist in Gallery, honestly, I am not writing the fucker out!
Written by Paul Flett
Photo by Johann Wierzbicki