Wednesday, 29 September 2010

339 DRUGSTORE, Elevate, Gus, Bristol Fleece, Tuesday 5 November 1996

Got there early after I'd driven Ady and Fred down, so hit the bar next door for pool. My intention was originally to get Beef to drive, but I thought he finished work too late; of course he still got here before the venue opened. D'oh!

Into the venue for 9, halfway through solo American Gus' noisy 12-string feedback tomfoolery and floppy fringed angst. I quite enjoyed his stripped-back rawness, despite the jarring feedback. T'was certainly better than Elevate who were a clumsy pastiche of late-period Fall, Nick Cave's darkness and a steamroller with a puncture. Crap!

I took centre stage for Drugstore's triumphant entrance at 10.30 (late one now at the Fleece!), with Isabel playing a solo "Adventures Of Isabel" (a weird bear/ witch eating song!), before being joined by the expanded band for an infectious "Say Hello". An hour's worth of spellbinding, bewitching and enthralling muse-ic followed, with spooky oldies being interspersed with more dynamic, punchier new stuff. Highlights for me were a heart-stopping rendition of Radiohead's "Black Star", which got me in a right old state, and the spinning fairground madness of "The Funeral", the adrenaline and red wine-fuelled Isabel giving a captivating performance of both. Encoring with a touching "Super Glider" and their angular, oblique reading of the classic "Teenage Kicks" (which I disliked first time I heard it, but hey, I can be wrong!), Drugstore tonight were majestic, shimmering and overall as good as I've ever seen them!

340 SIDI BOU SAID, Mink, 101, Swindon Level 3, Thursday 14 November 1996

Met up with Tim there as his band was first support! After much persuasion, I'd gone along to see Tim's band and was pleasantly surprised by some slightly generic but dynamic and enjoyable grungy rock. Tim on bass and vocalist/guitarist Andy struggled with duff speaker pickup, but still kicked up a fuss and got the best audience reception of the night; 9 people dancing!

Chatted at the bar while Mink peddled a forgettable Manics/ Radiohead style moody guitar rock. Paid a lot more attention when headliners Sidi Bou Said came on, mainly due to vocalist Claire's lacy black leggings! However, their sparse, ethereal sound, which is heavily Throwing Muses-based (10x"Mexican Women" for a set!) didn't really hold my attention. Sorry girls - go and write your own songs!

341 TONGUE, 101, Swindon Allied Dunbar Club - Clive's 40th Birthday Party! Friday 10 January 1997

I wouldn't normally include parties in a gig blog, but I have to make an exception for this one! My gigging buddy Clive, you see, had managed to get Tongue, formerly The Julie Dolphin and a bit of a musical obsession for both of us, to play at his 40th birthday party! So, a crowd of Swindonians came out to mark this momentous occasion! Level 3's Glyn Prince manned the decks, playing a selection of Clive's "all time" favourite songs, so despite my heavily strapped knee, courtesy of dislodging cartilage at Lev (midway through dancing to The Posies' "Solar Sister"!) I bopped along with him! Then after the usual party buffet, speeches of thanks from Clive and our presenting him with a surprise pressie, we had some live music from Tim's band 101, who rocked in a jerkily rhythmic and heavy on the guitar kind of way, loose of limb yet still together-sounding. Stylistically, they're travelling down the well-trodden Pumpkins/ Dinosaur Jr. dynamic US Alt guitar road (no surprise with Tim in the band!), but developing a style of their own in the process, and doing it rather well!

Tongue came on a 10.30, following Rich reading a truly extraordinary poem Ady had written in Clive's honour. Tongue unveiled a new dimension to their sound, with the addition of tape loops and beatboxes for some extra oomph. Initially, Diane and the boys also unveiled some new, less in-your-face but more melodic numbers, before rocking the place with the breathless and brilliant "Supermodel". By then pretty much the whole party was on it's feet, joining me - I was front centre giving it loads throughout!

Tongue concluded with 3 old faves; a frantic "Head", an absorbing "Fucked Up Lullaby", and a hugely appropriate "Birthday", which broke the curfew but they did it anyway! The best last 3 of a set I'd seen since Julian Cope's Reading set last year was a truly brilliant end to a great set - and party!

But the night was still young, so a gang of us went off to Level 3, for more raucous shenanigans, then afterwards, Tongue's Brett and Diane, plus Geoff and his "mad, bad and dangerous to know" roadie brother stayed the night at my place! More tales of sleepwalking, semi-nakedness and crazy dogs could ensue, but I'll leave it at that, methinks!

342 THE SLINGBACKS, Hasselhoff, Bristol Louisiana, Monday 27 January 1997

Well, I'm due a knee rebuild operation in February, which means no serious moshing at gigs for a year, apparently, so I've got to go while I can! So a jam-packed carload set off to the Louisiana, a new (for me) pub venue in Bristol's dockland. Rumours of its' size proved unfounded (legend has it that the Drugstore show, my gig 286 a couple of years back, was moved from here to the cupboard sized Brewhouse, as the Brewhouse was bigger!); indeed it proved to be a great little upstairs room, reminiscent of the late lamented Oxford Jericho Tavern.

Popped up for support band Hasselhoff, on at 9.15. Fred whispered to me, "rehearsing is overrated," midway through their shambles of a set, which summed it up to a "T". Four studenty airheads who think all it takes to be in a band is to own some instruments and play a few jangly "ba ba ba"s. One song in particular ("Purple" something) was possibly the worst I've ever heard at a gig! Children, children... please, fuck off and don't come back until you can at least all play the same song at the same time! On second thoughts, don't come back at all.

From the ridiculous to the sublime; The Slingbacks, on at 10.15, regaled us with their take on late 70's US glam punk, with a definite 90's dynamism and feel. Big chunky riffs, soulful melodies (no surprise whatsoever that vocalist Shireen cited Big Star as one of her faves) and trashy sleazy guitar; all the ingredients for a great set. One, in fact, which was more fun than a box of chimps, both for us and for the band, who really got off on the enthusiastic audience reaction from Bristol's young 'uns and Swindon's old 'uns! The superb punky "No Way Down" was an obvious highlight, was also was the Slingbacks mocking Twisted Sister on their encore "Sometimes I Hate You". Quick chat with vocalist Shireen afterwards, a Muffs and Eve's Plum fan too (again, no surprise). Great night with a band who seriously have what it takes!

343 SILVER SUN, Grass-Show, Don, Bristol Fleece, Thursday 6 February 1997

Continuing some seriously top-drawer gigs so far this embryonic new year, here's one that turned out to be another top-class triple-header at the Fleece! I bopped down with Beef and Ady, getting in just in time for a beer before first band Don came on. Don were a collection of chaps who'd obviously not just emerged from a student common room jam, looking more like they'd clocked up some miles on the rock'n'roll treadmill. Despite the "muso" image, however, they played a set of thoughtful, considered and well-constructed good old rock'n'roll, kind of Kevin McDermott Orchestra meets Pearl Jam, if you can imagine, but actually better than you'd imagine that particular clash of folky rock and grunge sounds. A good start!

Sweden's Grass-Show were next up; I'd picked up their single in the cheapo box at Manchester's Vinyl Exchange the previous weekend, and filed their driving rock under Mega City Four meets Husker Du on a dark night. How wrong I was, as they played an offbeat strumalong pop amalgam, suggesting Bettie Serveert, or at their best, fellow Swedes The Wannadies. Some superb numbers, especially the next single "1962", which had an fast, insistent groove, but also some disappointingly messy, sub-metal doom-thrash wigouts. Once they tighten up their quality control, however, they'll really be a name to watch out for!

Then, at 11, came Silver Sun. A band I'd been holding my breath to see, ever since their frenzied Sparks-meets-Ash single "Lava" pogoed its' way into my consciousness and left an indelible mark. I was expecting much - rather unfairly, perhaps - but I was not to be disappointed. From the get-go they were utterly brilliant, veering from mighty strumalong numbers with soaring melodies and US West coast harmonies so evocative you could feel the surf washing over you, to all-out amphetamine rushes of songs, complete with this incredible trademark helium harmonising. Vocalist James Broad, a Hank Marvin lookalike with the angular, jerky presence of Big Dipper's Bill Goffrier (high praise indeed!!!) looks like a geek but sings like a choirboy, and this set proved that Silver Sun are the freshest, feistiest, fizziest pop band on the market right now, turning me into a ragged, one man whirling dervish in the process. The best set by a British band since... ooh, I really don't know! And surely it's too early to proclaim this one gig of 1997, although whoever beats this will have to really go some!

344 THE SLINGBACKS, The Borshells, Reading Alleycat "Live", Tuesday 11 February 1997

Not a night for driving, this; howling winds and blatting rain, which barred our way and forced a couple of Tim's friends to drop out at short notice. Still, the conditions didn't stop a 3-man carload from aquaplaning along the M4 at 90 mph, on the way to an unsurprisingly deserted Alleycat for 9 pm, 15 minutes before local band The Borshells took the stage in front of their mates down the front. The girly vocalist was nervy but competent, but the bored looking band played the same monotone growl throughout, even reducing cheesy covers of Madonna's "Borderline" and Abba's "SOS" to a smothered guitar drone.

Still, once again we had The Slingbacks to rescue us from studenty ham-fisted indie-dom support band hell. The loony lads from the recent Bristol gig (hailing from Newbury, apparently!) took front centre for their arrival at 10.20ish. Getting tighter and more accomplished with each gig, but no less exciting and fun, the Slingbacks burned through their rejigged set with a passion. Despite my knee handicap (1 week until my op!) I rocked out energetically to their chunky punk with great pop tunes set, developing a seriously sweaty t-shirt in the process. "No Way Down", their breathless bratty best number, was again towering, as was set closer "Insufferable". We exchanged quick congrats and I gave copies of pix from the Bristol gig to an ebullient vocalist Shireen, after another splendid set.

Oh yeh, and t'was another aquaplaning adventure on the drive home!

345 THE LEMONHEADS, You Am I, Portsmouth Pyramids Centre, Tuesday 11 March 1997

Well, it started with a phone call...! I happened to mention to Phil Hurley, friend and former Gigolo Aunt, on the previous Saturday that I was going to this gig, and he asked me to say hello to an old friend; only Lemonheads guitarist and one of my favourite axe heroes (thanks to his tenure in Blake Babies and Velo Deluxe) Mr. John Strohm! Hey, sure I will!

So, Tim picked me up at 6 - stick and all (my cruciate ligament operation kept me out of the gigging circles for exactly one month. Ha!) - and we parked at 7.30 by this seaside venue. The place filled up quite quickly so support You Am I (no scheduled first support She; dunno why!) took the stage to an expectant crowd. Their set was sizzling like raw bacon on a stove; powerful prime cuts of rock which smacked of early Who and Teenage Fanclub with rockets up their buttholes, with vocalist and guitar man Tim Rogers giving it the old Pete Townshend arm windmills! The set skated along like a rampaging ice hockey player, with "Cathy's Clown" (dedicated to The Lemonheads, oddly enough!) the highlight. Dynamic and hot stuff!

Well, I then determined to pass on Phil's message, so having totally failed to spot Mr. Strohm wandering around the venue, Tim and I barged backstage, interrupting You Am I changing clothes post-set in the process! We were eventually let into the Lemonheads dressing room, having used the "friend of a friend" line on a bouncer. One message duly passed on, we hung backstage with The Lemonheads for about 10 minutes, chatting with mainman Evan Dando (who was elegantly stoned, and impressed with my knowledge of old Boston band Volcano Suns sufficiently to remark to me, "you know your Boston Rock!") as well as John (who was more reserved, but happy to get his old friend Phil's current phone number from me, and also happy to give me a copy of his new solo CD! Superb!). A seminal moment in my gigging days!

After all that, The Lemonheads could not fail to be anything but Godlike, and they didn't disappoint with a brilliantly selected set of their best and most popular numbers, following pretty much of a similar pattern to their Astoria gig last year. I stood there grooving around my stick, revelling in the warm, friendly, heartfelt and glorious pop rock music. Country tinged without the mawkish sentiment, touching without being gooey, and driving and dynamic without submerging the pop sensibilities, the Lemonheads are a precious band back on top form. "Shame About Ray", "Rudderless" and a stripped back "Frank Mills" (the last verse of which Evan drew back from, leaving the audience to sing) will stick in the mind, as will Evan, still elegantly stoned but hitting every note of his solo acoustic encore, with his delicious rich baritone. I know it's March, but all bets are off now - this is Gig Of The Year for 1997!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

346 HOPPER, Umbrella, Bristol Louisiana, Friday 4 April 1997

Amazingly, my brother decided to join us tonight, so Beef and I picked him up on the way. Ulterior Motive City - he's checking out the Louisiana as he's playing a gig there soon!

A "rentacrowd" turned up for Bristol's own Umbrella, who were a painfully young student power trio, trolling out loud and fast guitar in a similar vein to Ash (although Beef reckoned Husker Du). Either way, give them rehearsal time, and you never know...

Hopper were on at 10.15; led by a strange slim bespectacled girly vocalist, they played a punky blast of hard guitar grunge and 90's pop. The breathless rush of "Bad Kid", their single and best number by far, and "Wasted" were the highlights of a good set overall! Then back to Budlet's for a cuppa before driving home!

347 SPACEMAID, The Dandys, Bath Moles Club, Thursday 10 April 1997

A really late start off as Beef didn't pick me up for this one until 1/4 to 10! Met the boys at the gig during the young Dandys' okay but derivative set (Marion, Dodgy, The Kinks were obvious influences). They'll be okay once they write some songs of their own!

Spacemaid were on at 1/4 past 11, a fresh and spiky young lot of hip gunslingers, led by a cool auburn haired space-maid (!). They kicked into their glorious pop hit "The Girl Who Sold The World", and continued in that vein, with a great set of new wavey fizzy pop, with upfront guitars and soaring choruses. A band with a lot of potential, and possibly the sound of the Summer. My only complaint was that at a mere 25 minutes, the set was way too short! Nevertheless, here's another supercool young British band to surf the Silver Sun type wave of new punky pop!

348 SILVER SUN, Ballroom, Bath Moles Club, Thursday 1 May 1997

After doing my civic duty and voting in the General Election, I trotted down to Bath for a second in a row at Moles (which would've been 3 if the Slingbacks hadn't cancelled their show last Saturday!). Got there early - before 10 which is early for Moles - as we were expecting a busy one! Support band Ballroom were on at 10.30 and were disappointing Suede/ Radiohead impersonators, who disgusted my brother in particular by reacting sulkily to a heckling punter. If you can't stand the heat, etc. etc.... The rest of my gig buddies stayed at the bar while "Suediohead" (as Ady called them) peddled their wares.

All hell broke loose when Silver Sun, heralded by a couple of cop car flashing lights on top of the speakers, took the stage and burst into "Last Day". A huge moshpit (at Moles? Good grief!) ensued, and I became a part of it, gammy leg and all. Silver Sun were tremendous again, affirming their status as Britain's current best band, and probably the best of British "live" since, ooh, The Bunnymen? The sound did their wonderful harmonies full justice, and they fed off the (over?) enthusiastic reception, producing a wildly wonderful set of soaring spiky spunky punky pop. The place erupted (groan!) for "Lava", and current single "Golden Skin" was another highlight of another great Silver Sun set, from whence I emerged sneezing and dishevelled, but euphoric.

A euphoric drive home too, as early Election results heralded an eventual Labour landslide - out with the damn Tories at last! In more ways than one; a historic night!

349 CARTER THE UNSTOPPABLE SEX MACHINE, Midget, 101, Swindon College, Saturday 24 May 1997

Wandered along to this gig, the first at Swindon College for absolutely ages, held here because apparently, Carter USM didn't fancy playing at Level 3! Met up with Tim before his band 101 played a warm-up set to a sparse audience. Clive and I shook a leg, regardless, to their choppy Pixies-ish guitar rock. Despite the sparse crowd, they were tight and professional; getting better all the time!

Met people and socialised before main support Midget's set; they were a painfully young trio who played their spiky powerpop far too fast and loud, but improved later on.

Carter USM - now a 6-piece "proper" band - came on to an enthusiastic reception, with Jim Bob all long hair and misplaced passion. One thrown beer can later, and all hell broke loose, with the drummer walking off stage, then returning and trying to kick an audience member! Play subsequently resumed, and the tension actually made for a better finish to the set, with the older numbers, especially "Sheriff Fatman", still sounding OK, and better than their weaker newies. Overall quite an enjoyable gig, particularly so for the ruckus!

350 FOO FIGHTERS, Redd Kross, Southampton Guildhall, Monday 26 May 1997

After a gorgeously hot day spent watching footy on TV in Dean's back garden (!), Ady and I donned shorts and set off to Southampton, trundling down in just over an hour and jumping the (large) queue to gain entry to the cavernous but nevertheless sold-out Guildhall!

Took my position at stage right just before Redd Kross took the stage at 8. I'd been waiting 5 years to see this lot again, and been totally pissed off when their headline tour earlier this year coincided with my knee operation rehab! So I was well up for this, and was thankfully not disappointed. The McDonald brothers and their crazy clan of new wave space cadets played a superb set, full of shimmering and shiny tuneful hard rock, with their trademark 60's style harmonies much in evidence. The Beatles meet Cheap Trick! "Lady In The Front Row", their closer, was the highlight of a set which got an enthusiastic crowd rocking. Great start!

The Foos came on early at 9.15, Dave Grohl and co. immediately setting the place on fire with a dynamic start. Great rock riffs played with fire and passion, but also with heartfelt and brain hugging tunes and a sharp edge, this lot reminded me of Husker Du, and no finer compliment could I pay them. Dave Grohl, a genuinely nice bloke ("this is a message to the stewards; leave the kids be!" and, "be nice to your neighbour; we all want to have a good time," were 2 of his early comments to a frenzied moshpit) was, essentially, the Grant Hart everybody can like, and the wonderful "Everlong", the shining star of their set and indeed their entire recorded canon, could have easily walked off Husker Du's classic "Candy Apple Grey" LP. Yup, that good.

An hour's ear-splittingly loud and intense rock later, we both exited the moshpit soaked and exhilarated. Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters, now fully formed and primed, are ready for Nirvana-esque World Domination, and honestly it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

351/ 352 THE WANNADIES, Warm Jets, Westpier, Bristol Bierkeller and Reading Alleycat "Live", Tuesday/ Wednesday 27/28 May 1997

A big Wannadies double-header; I already had tickets with a posse for the Reading gig, before my brother called up to check my availability for the Bristol show. I didn't take much persuasion! So, t'was first to Bristol; a quick trundle down to Budlet's place in my work hire car then got us to the Bierkeller just as Westpier were rounding off their anonymous opening support set.

I trundled down the front for the Warm Jets set, however. They came on at 9 and were mighty fine; I was only familiar with their jerky new wave stylee singles "Autopia" and "Never Never", but Warm Jets revealed there was more to their portfolio, with some absorbing guitar and bass work from our very own Colleen Browne (yes, she of Parachute Men, Heart Throbs and Pale Saints fame!) embellishing well-crafted and moody pop songs played with care; a little too much care to start off with, but hey, they loosened up!

The pre-main event tape featured a Flaming Lips classic which had me shouting along, "and now, she's got Helly-copters!!! Yes She Has!!!!" at the top of my voice, bemusing Budlet somewhat. We then got tickled by a couple of teenage girlies. Weird! Anyway, the 'Dies burst onstage at 10, to their kick-ass punk rock opener "Because". I piled in the moshpit and decided to kick ass myself! The Wannadies tonight were awesome; as good as, if not better than, I'd ever seen them before. Relying heavily on their upfront, in your face new CD "Bagsy Me", their 2-pronged visual attack of mad, fluffy haired vocalist Par (the man with the best hair in rock, according to an impressed Budlet afterwards) and gyrating keyboardist Christina were a riveting sight, as the band belted out their soaring, harmonic pure pop anthems with surprising and snarling venom. A brilliant, brilliant set, with "You And Me Song" an obvious highlight. I emerged from the moshpit soaked but exhilarated - again!

That wasn't it, though, as we hung around afterwards, catching our breath and watching the techies pack up, and eventually bumped into Colleen, who remembered me from days past and got us backstage to get setlists signed! Result!

After that, Reading was bound to find it hard to match up, but nevertheless it was pretty cool too. Tim's posse and myself bopped down to find a queue outside the refurbished Alleycat, with Tim also a little pissed off that his gig with Ish here in a couple of weeks wasn't being advertised! We watched Westpier from the balcony bar, quickly realising that their entire set was as anonymous as the bit I'd seen the previous night.

I then trotted down stage front for Warm Jets again, who let their hair down and rocked out much more tonight, their set benefitting as a consequence. Warm Jets are the first new 1997 band I've seen, who succeed in writing haunting and moody songs without sounding like Radiohead. Fair play to them; I bopped furiously to their set, of which the metronomically absorbing "Future Signs" was the highlight.

Tim and I stayed stage front afterwards, seemingly being joined by the entire population of Reading! I made some girl's night by giving her a copy of last night's signed set-list as a birthday present, with her boyfriend remarking I must be, "the nicest bloke in the world!" Oh yeh, and the pre-set tape was the same, so I was shouting, "she's got Helly-copters!!!" again!

The Wannadies played the same set as last night, just as superbly, just as dynamically, just as punky and just as poppy! The Reading crowd were an even more manic lot, and we were buffeted about down the front, picking up a few bruises in the process. But hey, we didn't care, as we were mad for it, high on life and on the Wannadies perfect pop tunes. Another great set from a special band, and another brilliant 1997 concert. Over the two, I think Bristol shaded it for me, but both sets provided evidence that Warm Jets are a band who are going places, but the Wannadies are already there!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

353 CINNAMON SMITH, Ish, Reading Alleycat "Live", Tuesday 3 June 1997

You're going home in an organised gigging coach etc. etc! I was persuaded by Tim to go to this one as his "other" band Ish were supporting new Swindon hopefuls Cinnamon Smith, so I took a book and hopped on board! Met Tim at the venue and hung out with him and his posse. The gig was very sparsely populated and seemed made up almost entirely of the coach travellers, a point Ish's vocalist made early on in their set. Tim's a mate and all, but this band were frankly rubbish; a non-descript set of jangly shambolic indie-wank ten years out of date; the DIY likes of Mighty Mighty leapt to mind. Hmmm. Tim seemed almost embarrassed at this tame fayre, as he shrunk off stage right, but later informed me this was disappointment at playing to just a Swindon crowd, rather than the big audience that his dream of playing At! The! Alleycat! Live! had suggested.

Anyway, The Smith came on at 10.30. They're pushing themselves hard on the London circuit and have tightened up their sound considerably since I last saw them. This set of agit-poppy, choppy new wave thrash, a la early Wire and XTC, was good in places (notably the set closer "Revolve") but still needed the quality control axe to be wielded in places. A good performance, however, from the wild-eyed guitarist/ vocalist.

After that, thanks to a timetable cock-up, we had to wait an hour for the coach, so I didn't hit the hay until 1.30. D'oh!

354 NUMBER ONE CUP, Supp. Urusei Yatsura, Pink Kross, Reading Alleycat "Live", Friday 13 June 1997

Three in a row at the Alleycat, fast becoming a venue fave despite the prominent bouncers. First time here, however, for tonight's gig buddies Beef and Ady, so my muddled directions had to suffice!

Pink Kross came on at 9; far from being a diluted version of the excellent Redd Kross, this was a Scottish trio of tiny girlies dressed up as Catwoman, The Riddler and Wonder Woman respectively, who played unlistenable ultra-speedcore with not a tune to rub together to make fire. Each 2-minute squealing thrash merged into the next, making them quite the worst band I've seen for years! "This one's our next single," Wonder Woman said before one indecipherable number which sounded exactly like all the others; must've taken them ages to decide!

Still, we had The Cup up next to restore order. I popped to the front and bopped away at this Chicago 4-piece's solidly built, catchy rock set. They disappointed a little (okay, a lot...) by omitting both "Divebomb", their best-known number, and also, more surprisingly, their excellently sing-along Weezer-esque single "Monkey Song". T'uh, wilful obscurists... Nevertheless, this was a fine chunky set of groovy and slightly off-beat rock songs, which got me rocking down the front!

The place filled up more for headliners Urusei Yatsura, but wasn't quite the sell-out crush we'd expected. Urusei Yatsura played 40 minutes of their feedbacky, space-age, Jesus And Mary Chain meets Teenage Fanclub on a cartoon spaceship, style thrash rock, which had the punters bouncing, but somehow lacked a vital ingredient for me. They were energetic and enthusiastic, alright, but somehow also failed to completely set the place alight, despite a cool "Phasers On Stun" and some more tuneful newies. Still, I didn't really mind, as I wasn't specifically here for them; I was "Up for the Cup"! (groan etc.).

Incidentally, a quick chat afterwards with Number one Cup's vocalist revealed they don't do "Divebomb" as they're sick of playing it, and concerned about it becoming a "Creep" style millstone number around their necks. So there!

355 101, Custom Blue, plus support, London Camden Laurel Tree, Tuesday 15 July 1997

Weird one, this! The intended coach was cancelled due to lower ticket sales, so the remaining 9 hardy souls piled into 2 cars (including one, inadvisably, driven by myself) to get to Camden for Tim's band's first London headliner!

Met up with Tim and the band on arrival, and hung out awhile before going into the venue at 11, missing a few odd support bands but catching the popular Custom Blue, who were cheered to the rafters after their pastoral, Arthur Lee meets the Cardigans set which nevertheless did nowt for me. Also, as they overran, at the end of their set everyone except us Swindon lot upped and left!

So, 101, on at 11.30, played to only the hardy souls who made the trip. Nevertheless, they put on a storming performance, with a blistering "Like Your Lycra" my highlight of their dynamic and improving rock set. As I said to vocalist Andy Ashley afterwards, I didn't just come to London to see a mate's band, I came because 101 are bloody good.

A late one, this, though, which ended up with me getting stopped for speeding around Liden at 1.30 this morning and being fined! Ouch!

356 DINOSAUR JR. Snowpony, London WC2 Astoria, Friday 8 August 1997

A quick trip down the M4 with Clive and Ady on the hottest day of the year so far, plus the usual tube dash in from Shepherd's Bush, nevertheless failed to get us to the Astoria in time for first band Lotus Crown, especially since Tottenham Court Road was subject to a fire investigation! Nevertheless, we arrived at 8, just after main support Snowpony had come on. A slinky Goth chick in a figure-hugging blue dress giving it loads was more impressive than the sound, which was a Mazzy Star/ Curve/ Cranes ethereal weird Gothic groove. Ady liked it - surprise surprise!

Dinosaur Jr. sauntered on, early at 5 to 9, with J, looking a little more corpulent than before, nevertheless bursting into manic and energetic riffery. The moshpit went crazy and I joined it, t-shirt soon discarded as the temperature rose and rose. Dinosaur Jr. played a staggeringly loud, cacophonous set of their primal rock madness, which was nevertheless extremely user-friendly and singles-oriented, with classic "Freak Scene" casually inserted mid-set, and titanic encores of "Just like Heaven" and my own highlight, the awesome "Wagon". Some less exciting and grungier moments nevertheless didn't detract (for me, anyway!) from a tremendous 1 1/2 hour's rock!

357 MATTHEW SWEET, Santa Cruz, Ether, London LA2, Wednesday 13 August 1997

Amazingly, I don't know anyone else who likes Matthew Sweet, so I was oop the Smoke on my own for this one! Despite heavy M4 traffic caused by an accident, I still got there at 7.45, in time for the first band. Neither snow nor rain etc... not that there was any of that, as today was a scorcher!

Anyway, said first band, Ether, played to a sparse crowd at 7.45, but impressed with good old fashioned tunes and mod-ish rock sensibilities, not unlike a lighter You Am I. Certainly better than main support Santa Cruz, who may be the missing link between baggy and Goth; Gaggy? Bath? The bedraggled vocalist probably needed one of the latter, as his Jim Morrison fixation probably extended to the Lizard King's "irregular" personal hygiene, by the looks of things!

By this time, the place was heaving, sweaty and close to a sell-out. I took a vantage point down the front as Matthew came on at 9.40, accompanied, amazingly enough, by Ric Menck and Paul Chastain of Velvet Crush as part of his 5-man band! I went for it as Matthew, a little larger than expected (far be it from me to suggest that he ate the pies J Mascis left!), started with "Come To California", a supreme opener. A fantastic set of his pure pop goodies followed, sounding bigger, louder, faster and generally taking flight "live". Drawing mainly from current "Blue Sky On Mars" CD, which is seriously growing on me, Matthew's excellently crafted, occasional Byrds-tinged, soaring and spangling College rock songs were full-on, supremely embellished by his unique, high and slightly nasal lilt. I rocked out to a brilliant 1 1/2 hour set (plus encores) from a superb and dynamic performer, which could honestly have been twice as long and still would have been too short!

Highlights? Most of the set actually, but particularly a "Sick Of Myself" which featured about half a dozen false endings, and encores "I've Been Waiting" and an astonishing "Teenage Kicks"; meeting James from Silver Sun afterwards and telling him his LP was the "most played" on our recent Algarve holiday; and most of all, my asking the notoriously plane-phobic Matthew how his flight from the States was, and getting the response, "how was the flight? The flight was a boat!" Classic!

Thursday, 16 September 2010



"Programmes! Get your programmes!" I don't think so! There's no-one walking around selling them, as there should be, but when people in the so-called information tent are asked about them, they say people are walking around selling them! They LIE! So, I had to make do with a case of wanker's cramp, scribbling down the running orders from the info tent's photocopies! Bah! Still, the rain was only spitting as Beef and I hit the site, and at least there wasn't a queue for wristbands!

For a first day it's still a little quiet to begin with, so we had no trouble bumping into Tim and Claire in the arena before first band SCARFO, on at 1. I saw them as spiky popsters a couple of years ago, but since then they seem to have turned into Placebo wannabees, employing the same tension-filled high octane approach as Molko's mob. They're not too bad, despite being very obviously derivative, and at least they persuaded the sun to peek out! The arena then started to fill and heat up as STRANGELOVE took the main stage; hey, another Bristol band with about a million or so guitarists! I lay down and drifted off to their rocky but insubstantial set, paying attention to "Freak", their best number, which was a sleazy yell for attention and applause from the Brett Anderson (Suede) act-alike vocalist Patrick, who also gushed, "I love you all!" at the end of their set. Hmmm.

Anyway, the next mainstage band was, as expected, the first Festival highlight. I went down the front for the FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE, who sauntered onstage and played a super set, comprising the laconic, luscious and lazy Summery pop melodies so in evidence on their wonderful eponymous debut CD. "Sick Day" and the obvious "Radiation Vibe" were set highlights, as was the mock stadium "rawk" antics of vocalist Chris Collingwood, "so I could feel like Peter Frampton!". All this and humour too! I extracted myself from the mosh afterwards, and met up with Beef again for noodles and KENICKIE, introduced by compere Steve Lamacq as, "guaranteed to make any party swing!" However it took awhile for their spunky little set of C86-ish DIY girly guitar pop to get going, and we could have done without the pseudo posh accents in the lengthy interludes between songs. Also a disappointing set selection; no "Punka" or "Nightlife", with only a fine call-and-response "In Your Car" to recommend it. Sorry girls - oh yeh, and maybe you should lose some weight as well...

At this point Beef and I wandered back to the car to stash merch - including, finally, a programme! - and overheard the Cramps-ish swamp blues of the JOHN SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION from the main stage. No "Bellbottoms" within my earshot, but I was informed they did play it! We ventured, instead, into the big tent for a Friday afternoon, "what the fuck was THAT???" wake-up call. SIMON WARNER, a skinny long-haired chap dressed in black, with a gravelly voice and a very theatrical style, played a set of huge songs with some passion, backed by a 10 piece band with strings and brass sections! Kind of an Iggy Pop meets Scott Walker; unorthodox, but riveting and actually quite splendid! Stayed tent-side afterwards for LUNA, who trotted out another laconic but absorbing set of their lilting and considered West Coast guitar groove. "California (All The Way)" was the delicate highlight of a fine set from Dean and the Luna-tics (groan).

Early evening started to draw in, and Beef went off to watch all of STEREOLAB in the arena, but I stayed big tent-bound. SILVER SUN were up next; Silver Sun, who took the stage in a whirl of red and black and a welter of punk rock and new wave chic, all bondage trews, skinny ties and dyed hair; Silver Sun, who plugged in and whacked through a superb melodic set of mutant surf punk, played with conviction, drive and those incredible harmonies (particularly during set highlight "Golden Skin"); Silver Sun, who caused the crowded tent to erupt into a seriously sweaty moshpit; Silver Sun, who were Friday's Best Band by some considerable distance!

Emerged with a stupid grin and sweaty bod to the early evening not-so-chill in the main arena. JAMES were kicking off their mainstage set - oddly enough, with millstone number "Sit Down" - so I met up with Beef and caught their set. Tim Booth was bedecked in silver shirt and a neck brace for some reason, but led James through a fine retro set of their sinewy yodelling folky pop, thankfully without the stadium rock pretensions and poses which marred previous James Reading sets. We were even treated to some stuttery dance steps from Tim during set closer "Sound". Vintage James - and I mean it! I then caught some of CATATONIA's dull and unimpressive identikit indie girly pop numbers in the big tent, before wandering over to the tiny tent for my first visit there this Festival, dodging bonfires and happy campers mellowing out as dusk fell. JACK, another tribe (7-strong this time) entertained me with some 60's film score guitar pop, like a less overtly glam My Life Story. Spookily okay; but then I was trying hard to like them as they were named after my old pet dog!

Emerging into the arena, I noted darkness had fallen with a vengeance, and that CAST, mainstage, were whining Scousers. Popped past the "Vans" tent, here at Reading for the first time; I dunno, maybe I'm getting old, but every time I've passed this tent today, the same shouty pummelling mess has been emanating from it. I'm as much for shouty pummelling messes as the next old punk, but it just sounded like the same band had been playing the same one chord over and over. Whatever, what's the fucking point? Went over to the big tent for SYMPOSIUM, and found a band with an identity crisis. The Symps are musical chameleons, taking beefed-up bluebeat and ska, 90's Green Day punk and Nirvana grunge guitar dynamics, to create... well, a bit of a mess really. At best a seriously confused Compulsion, at worst a band in serious need of a style sort-out. However, they were dynamic "live", underlining an apparent good live reputation, and the packed tent lapped it up while I just scratched my head. I did like their demolition of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night", though.

Off to the loo just before the Boos', spotting t-shirt slogan of the day in "Yeah, Whatever", which for me just beat "Some People Just Won't Take Fuck You! For An Answer" into second place. A disappointing headliner clash saw me eschewing Suede for THE BOO RADLEYS in the big tent, which was deserted! Quite a turnaround from the heaving mass for Symposium! It did get busier, but by no means full, when the Boos emerged, but despite that they played a fine, user-friendly pop set, relying mainly on slightly disappointing and darker, less poppy recent CD "C'mon Kids" but still featuring enough shiny pop classics to keep the feet tapping. The libidinous "Lazarus" was a highlight - as was Scary Sice's nasty goatee, which looked on first glance like a Nigel Mansell moustache!

Met Suede-bound Beef at the arena exit, and home by half past midnight, after a swift drive back!


A light drizzle down the motorway didn't bode well, but the site was dry and the forecast good. However, no footy with the Southampton lot this year, as at previous Readings, as there's not enough of them, or us. Besides which, my knee injury has meant my retirement from playing football, which of course is a great loss to the game!

So, we popped into the big tent at 11.30 instead, for a wake-up call from RUDE CLUB, who were a spiky and delicious poppy punk thrash. The new wave vixen vocalist, clad in stretched lycra top, was a riveting performer, and the set a super one to blow the cobwebs away and get the day off to a well rocking start! WARM JETS, next up, however topped that with possibly the best sounding set of the weekend so far; the aural dynamics were spot-on, and the Jets did them total justice with an excellent edgy set of their moody, off-kilter but beautifully constructed songs. "Future Signs" was an absorbing highlight of a fine set - the best I've seen from them so far!

Had a lunchtime wander over with Beef to the tiny tent, ignoring APOLLO 440 with their messy dubby mainstage set. We caught some of CUBE, who kicked up a noisy but disjointed punky thrash, with little evidence of tunes underneath. Back into the big tent after a quick chill for YOU AM I and their mod-ish antics. The sound unfortunately didn't do their powerful and enthusiastic performance justice, with only the excellent "Cathy's Clown" rising above, and I needed a comfort call so missed some of their set. D'oh!

After that, I was up for waiting for my first Evan Dando encounter of the day, and joined the queue at the Melody Maker signing tent at 1/4 to 3 for his 4pm appearance. I could still hear the rantings of GOLD BLADE from the nearby big tent, and also the Summery but insubstantial flyaway pop of THE CARDIGANS. At 4 pm, a surly, non-communicative Evan showed up (on time, despite rumours), obviously pissed off and maybe on something...Also, only signing one thing per person, and apparently throwing stuff behind him if people didn't accept this! As a result, I offered neither the handed-out photo or single, but instead when my turn came, I reminded Evan about our previous meeting last year, soliciting not a flicker of recognition, but then got him to sign the scan pic for my son, who is due in October and who we are calling Evan. This at least got a smile from the great but moodily taciturn man.

That was that! I was ushered away by the tent bouncers, and popped back 10 minutes later to discover he'd thrown a (silent) wobbly and stalked off! I debated, both in my mind and with a passing Warm Jet and old rock friend Colleen Browne, the rights and wrongs of such "superstar" behaviour (okay, he's the star and people are queuing to see him, but at least he should be courteous! That said, he probably resents the intrusion when all he wants to do is come and play music), then popped back to the car with the gear, now anticipating a degree of edge to the forthcoming Lemonheads set. Found Beef and also dumped into Carter USM's Jim Morrison, who remembered me from the Jamie Wednesday days, waaaay back. We had a nice little chat and a quick reminisce, which was good, and a nice antidote after the Dando histrionics.

Then on to Evan Dando encounter 2, namely what the Dando does well; I piled into the mosh for THE LEMONHEADS' early evening set. Evan was considerably more sociable onstage than off, obviously saving his communication skills for the masses. The band, with John Strohm as brilliant an axe hero as ever, was superb, and Evan was a mesmeric frontman; dippy, self-effacing ("I'm just an idiot with a bad attitude"), attention grabbing, and generally a total and archetypal rock star. I got lifted out of the mosh down the front 2/3rds through their marvellous cool rock set, as I was tired of crowdsurfing punters landing on my head, but I can't let that detract from the best main stage set of the weekend. "Rudderless" a brilliant closer to a set touched by a flawed genius.

Teatime! I had a superb noodle and mushroom dish, then Beef and I confirmed that the vocalist of former shoegazing rock pups Revolver is now the guitarist of avant-dub ska crapsters DEATH IN VEGAS, playing a poor big tent set. I then lost Beef and wandered around the dusty and dusky arena, taking in the vibe and doing my best to ignore SPACE on the mainstage. God they're total crap. Headed over to the backstage entrance, and lucked into Evan Dando encounter 3, as he wandered into the arena. This time he not only spoke to me, but went "wow!" at my Big Dipper t-shirt, and joined me in a brief chorus of The Embarrassment's "Sex Drive"! We also spoke briefly about my calling my son-to-be Evan, and he added, "good luck, sweet dreams" to my previously signed scan pic. Faith restored in the man, an absolute superstar and a festival moment I'll always remember.

Trying in vain to calm down and wipe the stupid grin from my face, I then popped into the big tent for some of GORKY'S ZYGOTIC MYNCI's 60's influenced mellow little organ-fuelled pop stuff, which was much more orthodox than I'd expected. I did like the song about "Wicked Waters", and the hookline for "Patio Song", "Isn't it a lovely day..." which nailed my mood perfectly, and created a mellow vibe as dusk settled on the crowded and dusty arena. Over then to the tiny tent for a bit of BROADCAST and their schmoozy girly jazz pop, then hiked it over double-quick to the big tent and forced my way down the front. THE WANNADIES, a pre-festival top tip, were up, and took top honours for today, and the weekend, with an utterly devastating set. They were on top form; raucous, colourful, supercharged melodies played with verve and passion to a wildly enthusiastic crowd, myself included. Every one a winner, but my fave "Candy Man" was an exhilarating, jump-about highlight. Brilliant stuff, and Best Set of the Weekend for the Swedish pop Godheads!

Met up with Tim and Claire in the tent, staying put for EELS headlining set. E took the stage in US game show host chic, and after a too-long intro, eventually got going into a 10 minute long "Not Ready Yet", followed by a disappointing, almost acapella "Novocaine For The Soul". Disappointed, we popped out of the tent for awhile, but Eels eventually enticed us back with an improving set which eventually did justice to their fascinating, sleazy-underbelly-of-the-American-Dream CD. A good finish overall, with a hushed, spooky "Flower In a Hailstorm" a memorable closer. I could have done without the drum solo in "Rags To Rags", though, and I left feeling that maybe, just maybe, the tent organisers got the last 2 bands the wrong way around, as The Wannadies surely proved they're ready for such an honour.

Anyway, a quick drive back with Beef afterwards, and home by 12.45, bringing Saturday - Dando Day - to a close!


Sunday - The Shortest Day! Possibly the worst bill of any one day at Reading ever, so I drove myself up this morning, as I fully intended to fuck off home well early! Drove through drizzle which gave the arena a fine coating as I met up with Tim and Claire, but this abated quickly, leaving the inexplicably packed arena overcast but warm. No fear of trench-foot here, unlike at Glasto this year!

RADISH, first up on the main stage, brought the sun out briefly for their hardly original but pretty good anyway Nirvana meets Weezer set; hard guitar dynamics with an underlying chunky melody. Very promising, particularly given that the vocalist Ben Kweller is only 15! FEEDER, however, were as fast, noisy and tuneless as last year, so I popped over to the big tent for some of CATHERINE's more sleazy glam guitar noise, which had a more rounded feel thanks to a brace of drummers.

I then had a dead hour or so on a pretty dead day, so I wandered around, got a "Hog Roast" (it's traditional, innit?), and did my best to ignore DOG EAT DOG, kicking up an unnecessary grunge rap noise, albeit with some nice sax which reminded me of the Psychedelic Furs (!), on the main stage. ARNOLD, in the big tent, were the next band I paid attention to. They played a mix of 60's influenced pop, veering from bland strumalong affairs to more discordant cacophonies. Okay really, but no more. My punk rock roots then sucked me into the main arena for reformed 80's LA hardcore punk pioneers, THE DESCENDENTS. Fronted by a bespectacled Rollins type, minus muscles, they came across like a cartoon early Husker Du, or a louder, faster Green Day. The 4 seconds (!) of "Hot Dog" was my highlight. A shitload of fun to watch, but I couldn't eat a whole one!

Following that, some fat twat paraded onstage to introduce 3 COLOURS RED with the shout, "so they've finally given Reading back to the rockers! How does that feel?" I'll tell you how it makes me feel, mate, sick to the stomach, that's how. Why don't you fuck off back to Donington??? That totally put me off 3CR - not that I'm a fan of their empty bluster take on "rawk" anyway - so I went to the little tent for an unexpected last-day treat! GARAGELAND developed a nice line in occasionally slow-burning, occasionally fast-strumming, layered and building guitar noise, with the Pixies and Drop Nineteens as obvious references. Whatever, this was a fine little gem of a set, which swept the "Best Newcomer" award quite easily!

Had a quick drink in the main arena - 3CR are still on! D'oh! - and then popped back into the tiny tent for the first few numbers of POSH. Another tribe - backing vocalists and all! - their entertaining, tinny new wave squeaky girly pop froth, delivered by the mutant offspring of Claire Grogan and Toni Basil (!) was fun, and I'm glad I caught their almost criminally catchy single "Shark Attack". However, I needed to head out for the final day highlight. DINOSAUR JR. were that predictable highlight, and a thrilling, lusciously loud way to end my festival. J Mascis had his own personal Marshall speaker stack on the stage (for extra volume, or simply for Evan Dando to hide behind? Oh yes, he was!), and his guitar playing was epic without being pompous, intricate without the over-indulgence, and very very very loud indeed, without delving into excessive grunge/HM guitar wank territory. A fine line well walked by another masterful musical genius, and a superb set with "Freak Scene" a (also predictable) highlight. Evan seemed to enjoy it too!

That was it! No more decent bands or interesting discoveries further up the bill, as Reading had (for me) taken a retrograde step by booking the likes of Marilyn Manson and Metallica. Bah! So, I geared up to leave at 5.30, firstly bumping into The Lemonheads' John Strohm, to totally complete my weekend. He remembered me from Portsmouth last year, laughed when I told him that Virgin Megastores were promoting his countrified solo CD "Caledonia" as being "from the new Gram Parsons"(!) and also confirmed Evan was, "talking crap," when he mentioned yesterday's set may be The Lemonheads' last. Evan was, apparently, just, "in a bad mood," yesterday (hmmm, that explains a few things...); "It's the last date of the tour, and we've got some studio time booked for a new LP." So there! Quick handshakes from the big man, some food, then I hit the road at 6. Good timing, as it lashed down with rain on my drive home!

So, Reading 1997 overall impressions? Well, the old reliables came through, and it was still a totally enjoyable Fest despite an overall weak bill (and certainly the weakest single day - Sunday - ever!). I certainly made the most of it, though, thanks to highlights The Wannadies, and Messrs. Strohm and Dando of the Lemonheads!


Friday Best: 1. SILVER SUN, 2. FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE, 3. LUNA (of 15)
Saturday Best: 1. THE WANNADIES, 2. THE LEMONHEADS, 3. WARM JETS (of 14)
Sunday Best: 1. DINOSAUR JR., 2. GARAGELAND, 3. RADISH (of 10)


Crap! 1. SPACE, 2. DEATH IN VEGAS, 3. 3 COLOURS RED and the twat who introduced them!
Sorry I Missed: SUEDE, HURRICANE #1, DON
Stars Of The Show: 1. EVAN DANDO (no contest!), 2. JOHN STROHM, 3. PER from the WANNADIES, 4. COLLEEN BROWNE; 5. JIM MORRISON for remembering those old Jamie Wednesday days!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

359 TANYA DONELLY, Arnold, Bristol Fleece, Thursday 25 September 1997

Drove up on my own for this one, arriving just as support Arnold were rounding off a pleasant guitar set, which was only marred by a dirge-like, Radiohead-like closer. The rest of the Swindon posse turned up at 9.15, thanks to Beef taking the wrong turn on the M4 and heading towards London! Bizarre! By then I'd already ran into former Throwing Muses drummer David Narcizo, who was drumming for Tanya tonight.

Tanya came on solo at 9.45, and ran through an old Belly number and an acoustic newie, before being joined onstage by her band of troubadours, including former Juliana Hatfield bassist and hubby Dean Fisher, and the aforementioned David. An intriguing hour's entertainment followed, with Tanya drawing mainly from her bruised, spooky solo LP "Lovesongs For Underdogs". A low-key and not-so dynamic performance (Dave called it, "mellow". Fair enough), which mainly suited the mood of the jagged material on show, and only took flight for singles "Pretty Deep" (introduced by Tanya as being written for a friend who bonded with her over the fact they both kept seeing dead bodies everywhere!) and old Belly favourite "Dusted". However, a still worthwhile set, with plenty of bittersweet musical moments from Tanya's bitter candyfloss psyche to keep me satisfied!

360 101, plus support, Swindon The George, Friday 3 October 1997

Last gig before the imminent arrival of son Evan, so I managed to squeeze this one in as it was local! Got there as the support, 101 drummer Alan's "other" band, were kicking up a din.

Tim's band 101, however, are maturing with each set; this one, in front of hardy local punters, was great from the off, but took awhile to ignite the crowd to respond and dance. Nevertheless, their rocky guitar dynamics and self-deprecating attitude won the cynical bunch over in the end, as did their blazing cover of The Wannadies' "Hit" and excellent set closer "Like Your Lycra", both of which had me dervish dancing in the middle of the pub!

361 SPARKLEHORSE, The Unbelievable Truth, Reading Alleycat "Live", Friday 14 November 1997

My first gig after becoming a dad to Evan saw me leaving the one month old (today) sprog at home with his mum, and tromping down a wet motorway with Tim, thence to indulge in my passion for Yank guitar bands (a passion from whence Evan derived his name, of course!).

Hit the venue at 1/4 to 9, midway through The Unbelievable Truth, who were delivering a set of easy on the ears melodic guitar rock, not unimpressive and almost Big Dish-like (remember them? That's going back some...). They went down well too, so perhaps a name for the future?

Tim and I took front centre positions for the arrival of the 'Hoss, at 1/4 to 10 (early one for The Alleycat!), amongst an ever-increasing and expectant crowd. Mainman, the very tall Mark Linkous ambled onstage, thankfully showing no ill-effects from his temporary paralysis of a couple of years back, and, accompanied by an all-new band (featuring a highly mobile double-bassist!), played a thrilling set of angular, dusty and breathtaking Americana. A very varied set too, with a number of impressive, rockier newies thrown in to accompany the more hushed numbers from LP "Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot". Highlights were the eerie "Spirit Ditch", accompanied by soap bubbles (!), a lump-in-the-throat "Saturday", and the meandering yet absorbing encore "Hammering The Cramps". And, oh yes, finally a live rendition of the anthemic "Someday I Will Treat You Good", brilliant despite not quite as soaring as on record. Nevertheless, over an hour's absorbing mood music, from a unique band, sharing their vision of a sad and beautiful world with we privileged few.

362 101, MDQs, plus support, Swindon Level 3, Thursday 20 November 1997

The last 101 gig! Shame! But vocalist and songwriter Andy Ashley wants to, "give it a rest," to recharge his batteries, write new songs, then possibly consider reinventing the band under a different name. So this lured me to Level 3 on a wet Thursday, thence to endure the amateurish Cranberry-isms of the local support, whose name I've purposely eradicated from my memory thanks to their appalling cover of Throwing Muses' "Not Too Soon".

Chatted at the bar with the 101 boys during MDQs set. They've cleaned up their act since their days as Mike's Dirty Quilt, and kicked up a tight and good-sounding Marion-esque driving noise, to general apathy.

However 101 rocked me out as usual, as Clive and I became a latter-day Dervish Brothers and made the most of this excellent local band's angular jagged guitar noise - for now! "Like Your Lycra" was a splendid breathless conclusion to a final 101 set, beset with technical problems but delivered, as ever, with fun and humour. They'll be back, hopefully!

363 BOOM BOOM MANCINI, Supp. The Dandys, Contrast, London Highbury Garage, Wednesday 17 December 1997

Made a train trip up on my own to the Smoke on the coldest, snowiest night of the year for some rock. Why not? Got to the venue and bumped into an incredulous Geoff, bassist with BBM, after enjoying a chunky and absorbingly good guitar set from Contrast, played to a sparse audience.

I was here for Boom Boom Mancini, though, and they came on at 9.30 and played an excellent set, interspersing old favourites "35 East Drive", the breathless "Supermodel Human" and the mammoth mania of "Head" into their set of otherwise lean and melodic newies, fuelled by tapes and drum machines and delivered with their usual excellent vigour. Vocalist Dianne was a riveting focus as I danced my legs off! Chatted with them afterwards during the Dandy's reasonable set - again - before leaving to catch my train. Sorry Dandys, but I'd seen who I came to see!

364 STEREOPHONICS, Asian Dub Foundation, WARM JETS, Theaudience, "NME Brats Bus Tour", Bristol University Anson Rooms, Saturday 24 January 1998

Kicked off a hectic week (and hopefully a hectic year!) of gigs by scooting off to Brizzle on a freezing night for the annual "NME Brats Bus" tour! Ady and I got there in time to see new band Theaudience, who were touted as Blondie revivalists, but who disappointed me with far too few pop gems and far too much gloomy pseudo Goth muso stuff, which wouldn't have been out of place in a Cranberries support (ugh!).

Luckily, Warm Jets were next up. Despite the absence of my favourite girly bassist, the statuesque Canadian Colleen Browne (apparently left "by mutual consent", according to an enlightening chat with the Warm Jets' guitar roadie) they were top band for me by some distance tonight. Now a little more in the limelight (thanks as much I guess to singer Louis Jones' current romance with DJ Zoe Ball, as with their splendidly crafted music), the Jets played with a more overt confidence than before, and their moody, atmospheric numbers took new flight. "Silver Surfer" was the highlight for me of their set, which I spent bopping in a growing moshpit at this sell-out gig!

Popped into the lobby for a breather with Ady during Asian Dub Foundation's set; they were exactly as you'd expect them to sound, i.e. Asian, dubby and therefore really not my cup of tea at all. The Stereophonics were, however, potential highlights, so Ady and I piled back in to join in the quite amazingly partisan welcome for this Welsh power trio. The crowd knew every word of every song and were quite fanatical in their reception for the boys (quite an influx from over the Severn Bridge, methinks!), who played a stonking and passionate set. Not always my cup of tea either (due to some unfortunate leanings towards brain-dead Oasis-like terrace rants/ chants), they were nevertheless great "live", and set closers "More Life In A Tramp's Vest" and my favourite, the thrilling, driving "Local Boy In The Photograph" rescued them from a set which started well and just sagged a little in the middle for me.

Well, the kids loved the Stereophonics, but as I'm a contrary bugger, the Warm Jets won the day for me!

365 SPACEHOG, Cuckoo, Seven Stone Jesus, Bristol Fleece, Thursday 29 January 1998

I was persuaded to check out the 'Hog, thanks to them being old mates of Gigolo Aunts buddy Phil Hurley, despite them originally hailing from Leeds (big in America, apparently, don't'cha know). So I drove down a crowded motorway on a freezing cold night, taking 1 1/2 hours to get to the Fleece thanks to the traffic. D'oh! The Fleece was back onto a late schedule though, so I had time for a brief chat with 'Hog guitarist Rich about Phil, before first band Seven Stone Jesus came on at 9.15, playing a plodding yet intriguing set of fuzz-laden guitar pop, which I wasn't sure what to make of.

Bumped into an old school friend before Cuckoo came on at 10. They were a considerably better proposition; a bright, fresh and very Irish (Oirish!) band, they sounded like a poppier Hitchers or Joyrider, which the made-up (in more ways than one!) guitarist took as a compliment when I spoke to him after their fine set.

Said "hey" to Lou, Spacehog manager, friend of Phil and also a Seattle man, before the 'Hog burst on at 11.15, following a very finicky soundcheck and set-up from their roadies! They were splendid "live"; brash and "in your face", their beefed up glam pop (circa Mott The Hoople, early Bowie, etc.) translated considerably better to the live environment than on record, where they can be disappointing. An urgent "Space Is The Place" was the obvious highlight, but other tracks also shone as the 'Hog gave it some stick. Well worth seeing after all, despite the lateness - and the pea-souper fog coming home (which meant a 1.45 home time - for a Bristol gig. Ouch!).

366 GREEN DAY, D-Generation, London Brixton Academy, Saturday 31 January 1998

We set off for this one at 1/4 to 3, so had a quick detour over to Camden with the boys (Ady and Rich), before getting over to Brixton at 6.15. Had something to eat and a couple of drinks, as the queue for this sell-out show stretched around the block (!), so we didn't get in until 8.15, still managing to secure good unreserved circle seats, stage left. So we had a very good view for support D-Generation, who were US trad punk - a bit like the Ramones, Black Flag, etc.- 10 years too late and not too bright, really.

The place erupted at 9.15 for the appearance of the Green Day boys, though; bounding onstage to the entrance music of Devo's excellent "Whip It", and bursting into their MTV-friendly 90's punk rock set with a vengeance. Well-known numbers such as "Welcome To Paradise" and "Geek Stink Breath" were tossed in early on, as Billie Joe Armstrong, a superb charismatic nutcase frontman, led the band through some serious ramalama punk rock riffery, and turned the crowd downstairs into a dervish moshpit. Feet were duly tapped on the balcony, too, although due to heavy-handed security, we couldn't go much further than that. It's a rock gig, we want to dance, you fascists!

Anyway, on the dancefloor, audience participation was the order of the day; Billie Joe exhorting the mosh to shout, "Fuck Off!" at us balcony lot, and for us to reply, "You Suck!"; the band dragging a 16 year old out of the mosh to play guitar, then releasing him to dive back in during the entrance to the splendid "Basketcase"; and Billie Joe putting on dozens of t-shirts chucked onstage. Following a cacophonic ending to encore "When I Come Around" (wherein both drumkit and speaker stack were trashed, rock'n'roll style), Billie Joe ended with a solo rendition of current single "Time of Your Life". We did, thanks. Tremendous entertainment; a superb gig!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

367 HURRICANE NO. 1, Swindon HMV Store (lunchtime acoustic session!), Friday 13 February 1998

Andy Bell was queuing up in the Lloyds Cashpoint behind me in town at lunch, which jogged my memory about the former Ride man's current band Hurricane # 1 doing a lunchtime slot in the local HMV! So, I risked getting back to the office late, and joined the young and packed crowd of punters for their 1 o'clock set!

The boys sauntered out - on time - from backstage (or "back shop"), and set up for an acoustic set which gave an unexpected dimension to their 5 songs. I've so far rather unfairly dismissed them as run of the mill Britpop fayre and a real disappointment after Bell's former charges, the fine challenging guitar heroes Ride, but their determined and well-constructed modern rock, with a slight but evident Beatles-esque lilt, sounded very good in this stripped back form. Finale "Step Into my World" was the best of their 5 numbers. They also did a signing session afterwards, but I was late back anyway, so I left. D'oh! But hopefully this won't be the last time I see Hurricane # 1!

368 SLEEPER, Rialto, Libido, Swindon Oasis, Saturday 21 February 1998

Had a spare ticket for this one, but I couldn't even give it away outside, as it was nowhere near a sell-out, and everyone showing up already had tickets, with a lot of spares floating around as well. D'oh! Popped into the Oasis main hall - an odd venue for me, as this is where I play badminton! - for the opening set from Libido, 3 Norwegian rockers who have released my favourite single of 1998 so far (OK, it's only February, I know!) with the deliciously poppy "Overthrown". They played a most intriguing and challenging set of guitar rock; the early Wonderstuff comparisons of their splendid driving single were the only obvious influence reference points from a fine set I'd like to see in a small venue. "We split up last night, so this is kind of a reunion set for us," the vocalist told us. Erm, glad to have them back then!

Wandered around the venue, bumping into friends and Level 3 people alike, before Rialto's set. Despite featuring Kinky Machine's former mainman Louis, this lot are aiming more for a 60's B movie soundtrack cinematic urban pop feel, rather than the knockabout Kinks-like tunes of the Kinkies. One number, "Underdogs", was a total copy of "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" by the Walker Brothers! Good taste therefore, so I nevertheless liked them, especially their soaring single "Untouchable", which was the first of the set in which the double drummers actually drummed different patterns! However, I thought it notable that my favourite of the set, "Skyscraper", was the one which sounded most like Kinky Machine. Hmmm...

Anyway, Sleeper. I've been consistently disappointed by their patchy recorded output (the splendid "Delicious" notwithstanding), but have always enjoyed their fizz and energy "live", so I pretty much disregarded pre-gig stories of their impending demise, and lack of interest and ticket activity causing tour venue downsizing. However from the off tonight they were poor; the mix was thin and reedy, rendering me unable to really hear much from either of the 2 guitarists, and they played their now dated-sounding Britpop like a band going through the motions, with little bite or enthusiasm. I even decanted to the bar awhile, bumping into some similarly disappointed Level 3 regulars in the process, and returned only for "Delicious" which even seemed flat and limp.

So, I left at 10.30, before the end of their set, to get home for "Match Of The Day". Verdict? Well, I'd seen a couple of fine bands with potential and on their way up tonight, but neither of them were Sleeper.