Tuesday, 30 November 2010

249 LEATHERFACE, Squarehead, Swindon Monkey Club, Friday 8 October 1993

First gig in a small club for, ooh, 3 1/2 months! Hopefully not the last at Swindon's newest venue The Monkey Club, which looks an excellent sleazy little place.

Squarehead, a local lot, were loud and rocking, but the place really started jumping when the mad Mackems, Sunderland's very own Leatherface, took the stage. The usual cross between Motorhead and Husker Du, their rock was even more loud, abrasive and exciting from the moshpit, which was where I was. With "I Want The Moon" ("I want the fucking moon!") and a closing battering of "Wise Men Say" highlights, this was a sweaty, intense, beer-soaked, violent yet cathartic and totally fun evening's full-on rock!

250 THE LEMONHEADS, Eugenius, Baby Chaos, Cardiff University, Saturday 9 October 1993

Spent the day shopping in Cardiff, and popped to the gig after a rather splendid Italian meal. Baby Chaos, with their hardly original but still enjoyable rock set, were already on as we arrived. Not too bad a start, overall..

Eugenius were on at 8.30; oddly enough, this was the first time I'd seen Eugene Kelly and his bunch of Scottish laze-rock reprobates, who were formerly the excellent Captain America and subject of 2 lawsuits during that band's brief life! They played a splendid set of soulful yet chunky hard rock, with the old Captain America number "Flame On" a brilliant highlight.

Screams (yes, screams!) from a multitude of grunge girlies greeted the appearance of the "grunge sex kitten", Mr. Evan Dando, shining star of this year's Reading Festival, who again exuded star quality throughout this spellbinding set. This was, you know, kinda like, a really cool gig, man (!), as Dando took the rockier numbers from the great crossover indie-grunge-country album "It's A Shame About Ray" and added a soulful lilt to them with his dark plaintive voice. The set just got better and better throughout, and after the hour, Evan returned solo and played a couple of acoustic numbers, then "Confetti" and "Rudderless", which were the highlights tonight. A closing "Luka" also sparkled with style. A great performance from a slacker genius!

251 DROP NINETEENS, Antenna, Bristol Fleece, Wednesday 13 October 1993

Decided to go to this gig in preference to watching the footy; good thing too as England got beaten 2-0 by Holland so we failed to qualify for the World Cup. D'oh! So Clive and I headed down to the Fleece instead, only to find on arrival that the first band had cancelled so we had an hour's wait for the next band. D'oh!

But boy, was it worth it! Antenna, two thirds of old Boston band the very wonderful Blake Babies (Juliana Hatfield of course being the other third), came on at 9 and totally rocked the place with some extremely fine and well constructed college rock numbers, played with verve and gusto. Big John Strohm, vocalist and focal point, led his new baby confidently through a splendid and shining pop set. Clive and I both had the feeling we've not seen the last of Strohm and Antenna, a point we made to a chuffed John afterwards.

By contrast, the much-heralded and actually very short (!) Drop Nineteens were very disappointing. Mainman Greg Ackell was suffering from a sore throat and cut some numbers from the set, but by contrast to their fantastic Reading Festival set a couple of months ago, they seemed awkward and ill at ease, and projected their dreamy Muses-like pop rather poorly. A great shame, particularly on easily their best number, the wonderful "Winona", which came across very rushed "live" tonight.

Good thing we saw Antenna then, as they more than made up for it tonight, after all!

252 TEENAGE FANCLUB, Superchunk, The Posies, Bristol University Anson Rooms, Saturday 16 October 1993

A packed carload for his intriguing triple-header, including a surreal situation when Ady Bevan had to drop out at the last minute, to be replaced by Clive's workmate... Ady Bevan!

Anyway, after a parking-mare (increasingly familiar at this awkward hilltop venue), we arrived just as The Posies took the stage, dead on 8. Despite their reputation, they had only one good song (their single "Dream All Day", which strongly recalled the 60's classic "California Dreaming") and beyond that were disappointingly unimpressive standard post-grunge rock fayre, with a last number featuring about a minute's worth of self-indulgent noise. The jury's out...

However, better was to follow as the mighty Chunk took the stage at 20 to 9 (midway through a pint - again! Inconsiderate bastards!) and whacked straight into their awesome rock monster of a noise. "Skip Steps 1 And 3", second number in, was the highlight of the set as the Chunk, line astern onstage, blasted it out to an appreciative reception. I got well sweaty in a growing moshpit, and thought, at the end, that this set could not be topped tonight.

But hey, I was wrong! Only the second time I've seen Teenage Fanclub, surprisingly, the first being a patchy sounding set in a Reading field 2 years ago, so my hopes weren't particularly high for this one. However The Fannies were excellent tonight! Premiering material from excellent new LP "Thirteen", their lazy, hazy, slightly-delic blend of melodic guitar rock worked a total treat. It seemed as if the whole hall was jumping to gems such as the brilliant-live "God Knows It's True" and "What You Do To Me". I hauled Clive into the moshpit for "Norman 3" and its' 2 minute hookline; absorbing rather than repetitive, and shirts were duly discarded as we went for it.

The encores "Star Sign" and "Everything Flows" (featuring a guest Posie) were also highlights of a splendid set. Not the last time I see Teenage Fanclub, I hope! Oh yeh, and afterwards we got a ball out and had a kickabout in the street by the car. A groovy evening all round!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

253 GIGOLO AUNTS, Scrash, Mile High Smile, Kidderminster Market Tavern, Saturday 30 October 1993

Kidderminster?? Well, Clive held a quiz night (which I won!) which clashed with the more sensible Bristol date in this potential-loaded new band's tour, so in return, we enjoyed a 1 3/4 hour cross country journey to a dilapidated prefab community centre type building, with a dingy black hall which actually was the essence of rock'n'roll! Things boded well, especially as the beer was also cheap!

Unfortunately, things didn't start off well musically, with the well named but poor Mile High Smile, a clumsy middle-aged Neds Atomic Dustbin rip-off. Better followed, as the dynamic Scrash got the locals' feet tapping. A souped-up version of EMF, with a young vocalist with an acerbic attitude, they certainly warmed the cockles with some incisive rhythms and guitar attack. Their last gig, apparently - but as I told the vocalist afterwards, he's a cocky little bugger who should stick with it, as you never know...

Following a splendid harmonic Reading Festival set earlier this year, the Gigolo Aunts really announced themselves to me with their "Full On Bloom" CD, which featured a brilliant song "Walk Among Us". Not only fantastically anthemic and soaring in its' own right, this number also featured a lyrical homage to my all-time favourite band, fellow Bostonians Big Dipper. So they'd already endeared themselves to me, but upon meeting guitarist Phil Hurley prior to their set, his greeting of, "so you're the guy who wrote us about the Dipper - and you've got a Dipper shirt on! Wow! Put it there, buddy!" only served to elevate them more!

So, expectation levels were high as the boys took the stage to "Cope", the fantastic opener from their "Flippin' Out" LP, and Clive and I were transformed into whirling dervishes as their stunning, whirling, exhilarating, effervescent pure pop belted out. Every one a winner, each song loaded with hooks big enough to land a blue whale with, but with the aforementioned "Walk Among Us" an outstanding jewel in the set. Brilliant, brilliant stuff, but more amazing was to come with the encore. "This one's for a friend of ours," was the introduction of their version of Big Dipper's "Mr. Woods"!! This was then followed by an amphetamine-fast cover of The Smiths' "Ask", climaxing a wonderfully spent hour.

Chatted for ages afterwards with the band, with vocalist Dave Gibbs videotaping Clive and I singing "Serious Drugs", and also promising to send me a copy of Big Dipper's last album "Slam"! Smiles and handshakes all around upon departing, and now I can't wait for my next Gigolo Aunts gig! An astonishing night!

254 BUFFALO TOM, The Verlaines, Bristol Bierkeller, Monday 15 November 1993

This one started off as a bit of disaster, when my ordered tickets never arrived, and the people I then arranged to have my name left on the door with, during the afternoon, were on a completely different planet to the meatheads actually on the door! After a furious David Rose Special broadside, they eventually let us in! Played pool during the support band; how many Bierkeller reviews have that phrase in them? This time, support the Verlaines were an adequate, not unpleasant musical backdrop to my pool dominance against gig buddies Clive and Beef.

I was revved up for The Tom tonight, and really wanted them to kick some serious ass. Despite starting their set with a turbocharged "Velvet Roof" and featuring an early, brilliantly strident and anthemic "Taillights Fade" and titanic "Soda Jerk", their set (based heavily on fine, if slightly over-polished, new LP "Big Red Letter Day") however really didn't scale the heights I was expecting it to. A fine, well rocking set of soulful guitar angst it may have been, but the new material features much more "Handle With Care" signs than their previous, more ragged post-grunge rocky output, and their set suffered slightly from them not really cutting loose. I just got the feeling they'd played much better sets before. Still maybe I'm being over-critical, because I still got down the front, still rocked out and got sweaty, and still really enjoyed myself!

255 GIGOLO AUNTS, Boy Racer, Hula Hoop, Leicester Princess Charlotte, Thursday 2 December 1993

The Gigolo Aunts are back in the UK again, and I'm determined to see them; so much so that Clive and I drove up to Leicester on a Thursday evening! This time we got into the Charlotte (parking again in the Phoenix Arts Centre private car park - we don't care, us) to find that, happily, the headliners hadn't cancelled! Met up with Aunts boys Phil and Dave, and chatted about their November tour in Sweden with the Wonderstuff (from whence I subsequently received a postcard from Dave!), before tapping a toe to Kentucky's own Hula Hoop, who produced a fine, tuneful pop blast which was sufficient to persuade me to part for £5 for their LP afterwards. A fine start!

Disappeared to take antibiotics (just getting over the flu, you see) during Boy Racer's set. Apparently a Sarah Records band, although you wouldn't guess from the forceful, heavy on the guitars noise they kicked out; quite early Wedding Present in its' harshness, rather than the usual Sarah Records twee-ness.

Took positions down the front as The Gigolo Aunts soundchecked. Towards the end of said check, the boys heckled drummer Paul (the only one onstage at the time) from the wings for a drum solo, so he promptly started up the drum intro to set opener "Cope"! Suitably caught out, the rest of The Gigolo Aunts hurriedly took the stage, and subsequently attacked the song and subsequent set with power and venom. Clive and I, despite recent bouts of illness, gave it loads down the front to a set which, initially, struggled with glaring noise and bad feedback mix hell, but which after 3rd number in, the studied "Ride On", settled into their usual manic and irresistibly harmonic pop brilliance. "Serious Drugs" was greeted by Clive and I, hands clasped to our hearts, singing along (a reference to the Kidderminster video!), which in turn Dave greeted with a sincere, "I love you guys!"

A confident and superbly paced and projected set was capped with a frenzied Smiths cover "Ask", (itself preceded by a haphazard Kiss cover, featuring Dave on drums!), and second encore, the zenith of their material, the brilliantly soaring "Walk Among Us", requested by, and dedicated to, erm, me! Compliments and photo opportunities followed the set, after another brilliant performance from an increasingly very special band!

256 GIGOLO AUNTS, Supp. The Posies, Corradi Kid, London Highbury Garage, Saturday 4 December 1993

The third time in 6 weeks and 4th overall this year; do you see a pattern emerging? Namely, I'm becoming a serious Gigolo Aunts obsessive? You better believe it!

So off again, this time for an easy journey to the Garage (turn left at the Angel Centre, pop kids!) which also included navigating in a driver to Euston for London University hospital, which made us all feel like good Samaritans. Confronted by a queue-mare and "Sold Out" signs, we blagged our way ahead in the queue by claiming we were on the guest list (which Aunts guitarist Phil Hurley admittedly tried to arrange, but couldn't due to their label Fire Records' guests taking precedence), then promptly grabbed the last couple of available tickets at the door, paying to get in!

My first trip to the Garage; a good venue, this! Star spotted (luminaries including The Wonderstuff's Miles Hunt, That Petrol Emotion's Steve Mack, Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce, and a Family Cat or two) during Corradi Kid's pleasant, worthy Auteurs-like set, albeit with louder guitars and less memorable, intellectual tunes than Luke Haines' mob.

Ran into a couple of the Aunts boys as the place filled up. Took a good vantage point near the front, expecting a good gig! 9.15; PA off, and on with the intro music - the orchestral version of the "Star Wars" theme tune? Luke Skywalker, alias Aunts vocalist Dave Gibbs, then took the stage, lightsabre poised, and led the rebel fighters into "Cope", the splendid opener from their wonderful "Flippin' Out" LP. Totally wonderful sound in the venue, and the Gigolo Aunts did it full justice with an absolute belter. We rocked out to an astonishing set of already familiar, harmonic and melodic pop classics, every one a winner, every one delivered with confidence, style and verve, and no little humour. Brilliant, exhilarating and life-affirming stuff from a band who, already for me, are up with the true greats, the Parachute Men, Bunnymen and Big Dippers of this world.

After that set, The Posies would only be flat bitter to the ambrosia served up by the Gigolo Aunts, but they nevertheless delivered a fine, popular set of tuneful and harmonious rock misik. We hung back at the bar and chatted to The Aunts while the Posies were on (taking notice of their "California Dreaming" sound-alike "Dream All Day", and their rendition of "I Am The Cosmos", which was excellent and the set highlight), then left at 11 to handshakes and compliments from Mr. Gibbs. For once, superlatives escape me...

257 THE HEART THROBS, Sleeper, London Highbury Garage, Wednesday 8 December 1993

Both Beef and myself, being on the Heart Throbs' "Spongey Information" mail list, received some sad news through the post - the Heart Throbs were splitting up, and were due to play one final farewell gig in London. Like a letter requesting help from a long-lost but not forgotten old flame, we were compelled to act upon it!

So we drove up, getting to the venue at 8.15 and going over the road to the pub. No hurry as first band, the intriguing Julie Dolphin, had pulled out. Bummer! We unexpectedly ran into Heart Throbs vocalist Rose Carlotti and the boys in the pub; "first the Parachute Men split up, now you guys; I'll never give my heart again!" I pleaded (half jokingly) to Rose, before she explained that the intention was to "re-invent" the band, under a new guise and possibly new name.

Back in the venue at 9.30 for Sleeper, a young female fronted spunky outfit, who played some vibrant pop not unlike a punk rock Go-gos, Not too bad at all, and one for the future, mayhap... Ran into Steve Lamacq, former NME journalist (whence I referred to him as, "Steve Lamacq, my favourite hack") and current Radio 1 DJ; he noticed my Parachute Men t-shirt, shook my hand and said, "any friend of the Parachute Men is a friend of mine!" which was nice, and we had a brief chat.

The Heart Throbs were on at 10.30; determined to give themselves a good send-off, they played a storming, electrifying set, wonderfully chosen to maximise the momentum and temperature, with Rose a blisteringly hot performer. If this is to be the end, let it be known that they bowed out with anger, vitriol, passion and a blistering performance, with "Love Is Stretching" rocking, "Hooligan" haunting and "Brood Bitch" angry and jagged. 2 encores, including an emotive new number (!) "Nympholeptic", which may denote a more dynamic, almost punkier direction for the new band, and a final, orgiastic "Here I Hide". Popped backstage briefly afterwards, totally breathless. Hopefully, they'll be back!

258 MAGNAPOP, THE JULIE DOLPHIN, Oxford The Venue, Saturday 5 February 1994

I've spent a lengthy self-enforced exile from this venue, thanks to a not-altogether pleasant experience first time here (the Curve gig last year), but tonight there were appreciably fewer people in attendance for Magnapop. Oxford; have you no taste?

A carload of us drove down for this one, getting in at 9 just as The Julie Dolphin took the stage. They delivered a fine, hard driving rock sound augmented by female vocals - from Julie, supposedly? (Nope, as I later discovered, from wonderfully talented New Zealander Dianne Swann). I couldn't see many of the Throwing Muses' supposed similarities myself, apart from the vocalists' strident projection (quite Hersh-like) and one number which sounded exactly like the Muses' "Mexican Women", but I thoroughly enjoyed their set and hope to see them again... and again!

Athens, GA. natives Magnapop - at last in a small club! - took the stage a 10.30, buxom vocalist Linda Hopper in a "Playgirl" t-shirt and buoyant mood, and they proceeded to deliver a fine, rocking white noise set, sometimes over-loud but always powerful and colourful. Terrific stuff; I moshed for all I was worth, along, oddly enough, with 3 violent skinheads (Magnapop - the new Sham 69? Surely not!), giving as good as I got, but stopped before it got into serious male bonding territory. As for the onstage performance, the brilliant "Merry" and "Texas" were the highlights of Magnapop's magna-nificent pop set. A great way to kick off the 1994 gig year, especially with a "Bodrum" kebab with the boys afterwards!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

259 A HOUSE, Supp. The Blue Aeroplanes, Sleeper, Bristol University Anson Rooms, Saturday 12 February 1994

Dave, Ady and I popped down to this one directly from Birmingham, where we'd been to the footy (Swindon Town getting beaten 5-0 by Aston Villa - the less said about that the better!). Following half a dozen pints of Guinness at lunchtime, we also had a few beers on the way own - in the car!

In at 1/4 to 8 in time to see rising support band Sleeper. This time their youthful spunkiness and spiky guitar pop got a little lost in the bigger venue, but they still sounded confident; with one very fine song, "Delicious", and not a little sex and suss, they're certainly a name to watch - very soon indeed!

Met up with some mates who'd sensibly missed the footy, then moved forward for A House's set. Vocalist and mainman Dave Couse, on at 1/4 to 9, led A House through a superbly sounding set of their unique Irish-tinged folky poppy rock. Couse cut a strange dash as a vocalist - auburn haired, bespectacled and jolly pock marked, but still a riveting and charismatic frontman, as articulate and erudite as his material. Again, they left out a lot of stuff I'd loved to have seen them play, but even so they were marvellous, with new song, "I'll Never Forgive You" the highlight. I really should go and see them more often!

Popped into the bar for The Blue Aeroplanes' set. Dave and Ady love this lot, but I've never been able to get along with vocalist Gerard Langley's pompous lyricism and deadpan, emotionless delivery. Still, their "best of" set went down a storm, as one would expect from a home-town gig, really. Me, I stayed in the bar and got utterly bladdered!

260 KRISTEN HERSH, Vic Chesnutt, Bristol St. Georges Hall, Thursday 24 March 1994

A total car-park mare for this venue; eventually had to park a 10 minute run from the gig (running because it was pissing it down). Yikes! The gig itself was an old church on the top of a hill - pews and all! Had a few beers in the cellar bar while support artiste Vic Chesnutt was on, then went upstairs and squatted down at the front for Kristen's set. Just her and a big guitar, with occasional embellishment from a cellist, Kristen played a set based largely on her solo album "Hips And Makers", and delivered a musical tour de force. Stripped bare of the usual band, Kristen's true talent really shone through. A marvelously expressive and emotive set, mixed with a few humorous tales of motherhood ("big fat dog butt!" apparently being her young son Dylan's current catch-phrase. What is she bringing up?), and two encores revealing the reverence this crowd held her in. A 1 1/2 hour performance in total; cracking stuff, with encore "Cottonmouth" my personal highlight. Lovely!

261 THE WONDER STUFF, THE GIGOLO AUNTS, Newport Centre, Thursday 7 April 1994

A wind-assisted journey down and 1/2 hour standing in a windy queue - with shorts on, yet! - set Clive and I up very nicely for a good old bop. I was well up for this one, with my current musical obsession The Gigolo Aunts touring in support of The always-good-value-"live" Wonder Stuff. Having booked tickets for 3 dates on this tour (!) as soon as it was announced, this however was going to be the highlight; it's a great venue!

Barged our way to the front before The Gigolo Aunts took the stage early to a searing, high octane newie "Lemon Peeler". "There's a few familiar faces down the front," announced Steve Hurley before Dave Gibbs led the band into their "new" single, the re-released "Mrs. Washington", and we, and the general vicinity, went crazy. A spot-on sound, a big stage in all senses of the word, and our boys took it and went for it, with gusto! Another wonderful 45 minutes or so (which simply flew by!) of classic, harmonic and melodic guitar rock, brilliant songs delivered confidently and supremely. Simply su-perb!

Met up with Posse Car 2 before Clive and I blagged our way backstage ("Security? Just tell Dave Gibbs that David Rose is here!") and got to hang out with The Aunts for a good half hour, before decanting back to the arena for the Stuffies set. Missed 20 minutes or so because of our backstage invites, but the Stuffies obviously saved the best for last in their set. On cracking form, they delivered a splendidly well chosen selection of their offbeat, fiddle-fuelled quirky rock stuff. "Ten Trenches Deep", the set closer, was a splendid highlight which had the huge partisan crowd really rocking out. An encore run-through of some older, "Groove Machine" material ("you mean to say, everything we've recorded since 1988 has been shit?" asked Miles ironically to cheers) culminated an outstanding hours entertainment from a band evidently at the height of their powers.

That wasn't it, though! Clive, Rich and myself (later joined by the rest of the Posse Car 2 occupants, including an incredulous Jared) blagged our way backstage again, and spent an hour or so sitting around chilling, and in earnest conversation with Aunts guitarist Phil Hurley and lead Stuffie Miles Hunt. Despite the arrogant media persona (and the fact he was clearly "holding court" tonight), Miles was gregarious, friendly and willing to listen to people. Eventually, we had to clear off, so warm handshakes and gratefully accepted cans of Guinness from the rider on the way out capped another wonderful Gigolo Aunts evening. This time, however, it was a wonderful Wonder Stuff evening too!

262 MADDER ROSE, Lotion, Bristol Bierkeller, Sunday 10 April 1994

A good old run down the M4 on a bright Sunday evening to this gig with Beef; had a beer and a couple of games of pool in the Prince Rupert beforehand, as is habitual for gigs at this venue. He beat me twice - I was robbed!

Popped into the venue to catch the support set from native Noo-Yawkers Lotion. They ranged from the very good (exciting grungy rock similar to early Buffalo Tom) to the bad (clumsy, Pearl Jam sludge. Yuck!), but overall had me tapping my toes more than once, especially to their astonishing destruction of old 70's chestnut "Baby Come Back".

Madder Rose came on at 9.45, led by the very frail looking Mary Lorson, who almost didn't look strong enough to hold on to her guitar! Nevertheless, hold it she did, and led the band through a set which perversely ranged from frail and winsome delicate melody, to the more hard rocking stuff, with "Beautiful John" a highlight and a perfect example of the latter. Mainly pushing their current album "Panic On", they put together a very fine hour of their excellently crafted and polished mellow/ manic rock, with the mid-set double of the melodic "Swim" and the haunting "Car Song" another highlight.

A quick chat with Jim from Lotion - an old friend of my current obsessions The Gigolo Aunts, apparently! - before heading off after a very satisfying evening!

263 THE JULIE DOLPHIN, Supp. Salad, Bristol Fleece, Tuesday 12 April 1994

A splendid evening for travelling to a gig - clear and sunny - so I had a good run down the M4 with Clive and Dave. Got in in time for a couple of beers before, surprisingly, The Julie Dolphin came on at 9. We were confused, because on the way down we thought they were headlining!

Nevertheless, support they were, but they did it really well. A superb rocking start with the dynamic "Head" and their best number, the jagged "Fucked Up Lullaby" (featuring the excellent hook; "what's wrong with this picture?" What, indeed!), preceded a set which sagged a little in the middle with the slower, wispier stuff, but then chimed in confidently with a splendid "Birthday" and culminated in a great, Blake Babies-ish "Hemmed In". Aggressive without the posturing, and supremely poppy and tuneful with it; are these guys the new Heart Throbs?

Popped backstage for a quick chat with the band before Salad came on, and continued the chat with TJD's bassist Geoff while Salad were on. Led by MTV Video Jockey Marijne Van Der Vlugt, Salad were merely okay indie girlie guitar fayre, nothing more, with not a memorable tune in their set, I'm afraid. A little bit of an ego trip for Marijne, perhaps?

Still, the stars of the show, for us, never disappointed. Geoff and vocalist Dianne were very friendly, and genuinely surprised that we'd made the trip from Swindon primarily to see them. Well, they certainly made it worthwhile!

264 THE WONDER STUFF, THE GIGOLO AUNTS, Reading Rivermead Leisure Centre, Friday 15 April 1994

Well, following the superb Newport Centre Stuffies/Aunts double-header a couple of weeks ago, hopes were high of a repeat performance from both bands, and for a wondrous spectacle once again. So, off we did trot in a 2-car posse, arriving early, but then having to contend with the jobsworths the Rivermead Centre employed as security. Not only did they refuse me going back to try to catch up with The Gigolo Aunts (fair enough, I guess), but they wouldn't even take a message back. Wankers!

Luckily, we bumped into Aunts guitar man Phil Hurley, wandering through the venue before their performance, and agreed to meet up and say "hey" after their show. So Clive and I popped down the front for their set, starting a moshpit as new number "Lemon Peeler" and its' forceful riffery ignited the crowd, and sing-along single "Mrs. Washington" really took the Centre by storm. A superb reception for the boys (a great reception for a support band!) who really lived up to it again, delivering a superb performance of their effervescent, timeless harmonic guitar rock, belted out with style and no little amount of humour. "Walk Among Us" for me was the highlight of another brilliant set!

So we then met up with the Aunts boys by backstage for mutual compliments and chat; even then, however, the security fascists wouldn't let us backstage, despite being invited by the Aunts themselves! Bah! Nevertheless, great to see and hang out with The Aunts again; I really hope their current single "Mrs. Washington" charts, as they totally deserve it!

By contrast, and also in comparison with their excellent Newport set, The Wonder Stuff seemed to be having an off-night, and seemed as if they were going through the motions a little. Admittedly I missed chunks of their set to tend to a bad back (again, having to throw toys out of the pram to even get a chair. This place sucks), but what I heard was muddy and lacklustre, only catching alight with the excellent "Red Berry Joy Town" encore. Still, it's been a long tour, and they're entitled to an off night.

A quick bump into Phil again for autographs and compliments, before we left. A word to the Rivermead Security; Fuck off and die. I'm NOT going back there. A word to The Gigolo Aunts; God bless you, boys!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

265 THE WONDER STUFF, THE GIGOLO AUNTS, Done Lying Down, London Brixton Academy, Friday 22 April 1994

The third date on this tour for me was a drive/ train/ tube affair to get to, getting in to the venue at 7, dodging touts and picking up flyers on the way in, and getting a beer in just as surprise first support Done Lying Down regaled us with a bit of white noise and a couple of more thoughtful numbers.

Could only get Circle seats for this gig, so made sure of a good view right front centre, for The Gigolo Aunts set, which while dynamic, harmonic and effervescently vital as ever, suffered from poor sound in this currently half-full venue, with only "Where I Find My Heaven" rising above the glare. "A punk rock set," as guitarist Phil Hurley later called it, which culminated in the road-crew showering the boys with flowers at the start of last number "Bloom". A lovely touch to mark the last date of the tour!

The Wonder Stuff, by contrast, had the sound sorted totally perfectly for their later entrance in front of a by-now packed house, as clear as a (fiddly) bell, and the boys did it justice with a totally fabulous performance, brimming with class and confidence, and easily the best I've ever seen them. "Three million gigs and still singing like a mockingbird," declared vocalist Miles, and he was right; tonight The Stuffies were fully deserving of their Premier League of Rock status, and showed serious stadium credentials for the future. The encores, featuring Phil Hurley on additional guitar for one number ("someday all men will play like that, "complimented Miles), Vic Reeves for the showmanship of "Dizzy", and a roadie on mandolin for a version of The Waterboys' "Fisherman's Blues", all brought the house down!

Oh yeh, I took a wander midway through the Stuffies set, bumping into Phil and his tall girlfriend Dot, and watched in wonder as he revealed himself to be a true fan and rock enthusiast himself. We took a wander to the foyer, spotting Eat's excellent vocalist Ange Doolittle standing, appropriately, by the food bar, and when I pointed this out to Phil, he dashed over to the slightly taken aback Ange and immediately enthused, "wow man, I really like your band, man!" A great rock'n'roll moment!

Another nice footnote to this was that (as I found when I met her, years later) also in tonight's audience was a certain girl at her first gig... my wife Rachel!

266 THE JULIE DOLPHIN, Supp. Baby Chaos, Bath Moles Club, Thursday 28 April 1994

A bit of car-trouble (oh yeah!) on the way down, necessitating a car swap, meant we hit Moles for this gig dead on 10.30, just as The Julie Dolphin were taking the stage. Got in on their guest list after meeting up with them at The Fleece recently, so we repaid them with sweat as we moshed down the front to their strident, splendid set. Walking a similar tightrope between chaos and delicacy as Throwing Muses, they were extremely powerful and aggressive, yet so-ooo tuneful at the same time. The sound was brilliant in this tiny venue as well, and they went down a bomb; shouts for encores for ages afterwards, and not just from us!

Chatted to Brett and Geoff from TJD during Baby Chaos' unremarkable set, which recalled the chunky pop of Eugenius and the guitar layers of the likes of Ride, but really wasn't a patch on The Julie Dolphin's set and didn't seem to go down as well either. But then I'm biased, so I would say that... Anyway, we left at 12.30 to handshakes and compliments. I've a feeling that The Julie Dolphin aren't going to be doing support slots for much longer...

267 ADORABLE, Fin, Kinky Machine, Windsor Old Trout, Saturday 30 April 1994

Called in on this gig on the way home from London, after Swindon Town's splendid away win at QPR - indeed their only one in the Premiership - so we were in the mood to celebrate! Had some munchies in Windsor, then sat outside the Old Trout with the posse getting increasingly beered up!

Clive arrived at 8.30 and we went into the venue, in time for surprise support Kinky Machine! Clive and I had a jig to their shiny pop stuff, particularly enjoying older numbers "Shockaholic", "Swivelhead" and near hit single "Supernatural Giver", and tapped our feet to the newer, more thoughtful and considered material. A fine set. Fin were up next; they were a bit Suede-ish with their glam pop, and were, "a little inappropriate," according to Clive. Not sure what he meant by that, as by then I was sliding under the table thanks to the earlier over-celebrating! Whoops!

So headliners Adorable passed by in an alcoholic haze somewhat, as I was simply too drunk to enjoy them. D'oh! I recall a rather splendid "Sunshine Smile" and some good new numbers, but next time I'll make sure I stay sober!

(Of course, there wasn't to be a next time, as Adorable split up rather messily onstage in Europe shortly after this gig. Lesson learned. D'oh!)

268 MIDWAY STILL, Pope, Baby Chaos, Swindon Monkey Club, Friday 20 May 1994

My 7th time to see the wonderfully noisy, post-grunge rock reprobates Midway Still, and it turned out to be the last - at least for the time being! We found out when we arrived that, sadly, they're calling it a day, with the usual, "we're not fashionable in the press anymore," "we can't get bookings," reasons to blame. A great shame, and a sad indictment on the "build 'em up, knock 'em down" inflated power of the music press. Huh.

Played pool, losing to Clive (wot??) before openers Baby Chaos came on and impressed considerably more than lately with a dynamic guitar set. Then played some table footy with the posse before Pope, Frankie Stubbs' (Leatherface's former main gravelly voice) new power trio, came on. Less glaringly noisy than the 'face, they were nevertheless both abrasive and melodic, and played a (cover?) version of Leatherface's finest hour, "Not Superstitious". A good set.

Lamented the Still situation with Still frontman Paul Thompson, before the boys took the stage, apparently for the second-to-last time ever. Blasting through a best-of selection, their forceful, energetic set was equally received by an enthusiastic Swindon crowd (surely not?). Clive and I gave it more than loads, grasping this last opportunity to enjoy one of the most visceral and thrillingly noisy, yet no less tuneful, live bands of recent times, and the band themselves were dragged back on for 2 unscheduled encores. Going they may be, but tonight Midway Still left us with a bang!

269 THE AUTEURS, LUNA, Bristol Bierkeller, Monday 23 May 1994

Drove down for this gig with Beef, after our third intended gig companion got food poisoning, so we had his ticket to shift outside the venue! Had a beer in the "Prince Rupert" beforehand and got in at 20 to 9, thereby missing 10 minutes of Luna's earlier-than expected set. D'oh!

Still, what we saw was pretty splendid; some haunting rock with a very slight C&W lilt, operating in similar territory to the likes of Bettie Serveert. Dean Wareham, ex of Galaxie 500, retained their sense of atmosphere with his new charges, but over some generally more upbeat material, and embellished the sound splendidly with his eerie vocals. I enjoyed it, especially highlight "Slash Your Tyres"; shame no-one else did, as they were largely ignored by the slowly-filling venue.

The place filled up slightly for The Auteurs, who showed an unabashed rockier side to their music than at previous live sightings, which surprisingly worked well with their splendidly crafted and considered songs, giving them extra impetus and dynamism. A fine, confident set, with "Idiot Brother" and "Lenny Valentino" my highlights. Two fine performances; a close run thing, but I think Luna shaded it for me - just!

270 VELVET CRUSH, Drugstore, 18 Wheeler, London Islington Powerhaus, Friday 3 June 1994

Hit the smoke for this hotly-anticipated one at 8.15 - a new venue for me in London! Geoff, Brett and Dianne from The Julie Dolphin turned up, so Clive and I had a chat with them before the first band came on. 18 Wheeler, from Scotland, sounded very much like Teenage Fanclub (surprise surprise!) with their chunky riffs and harmonic sing-along choruses. Not too original, but not too bad either, and definitely a promising new album to check out...

Really not sure what to make of Drugstore, the second band on at 10. A diminutive lady vocalist with serious Kristen Hersh fixations and a strident but occasionally grating voice was initially off-putting, but then a couple of splendid originals seemed to win me over; then they did a slow-paced, plodding version of the Undertones classic "Teenage Kicks" which was frankly god-awful. The jury is definitely out on them...

Thankfully Velvet Crush, an odd looking combo indeed, brought some class to the proceedings. Short, chunky helium-voiced vocalist Paul Chastain also plucked some mean bass, guitarist Jeff Borchardt hit some spellbinding wah-wah and sported a mean pair of sideburns, extra guitarist Mitch Easter (I discovered later) embellished the sound, but the star was undoubtedly drummer and band leader Ric Menck, an amazing focal point with his splendid driving rhythms and occasional forays to the front of the stage, to chat to the crowd.

Despite all the stick Velvet Crush get about being Big Star homage freaks, to me they're more occasionally Byrds-ian in their jangly country and rock hotch-potch. It was no surprise (to me, at least), therefore, that they capped their gorgeous set (which drew mainly from forthcoming new LP "Teenage Anthems To God" (!) and culminated in a superb "This Life Is Killing Me" - rocket in its' pocket and all!) with a cover of McGuinn's "So You Wanna Be A Rock'n'Roll Star". And rather splendid it was too!

Had a chat with Ric afterwards and got my set list signed - a great way to end a superb evening!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

271 THE NUBILES, Eva Luna, Marilyn Twice, Swindon Monkey Club, Friday 1 July 1994

Had a wander down to this one, which promised a fine frontperson performance at least from Tara Milton, formerly of late 80's "live" favourites Five Thirty, who led his new charges, an unusual collection of individuals, into Swindon. But first, some local supports. Marilyn Twice, a collection of Level 3 goers, were just awful, I'm afraid, suffering from very poor sound which they couldn't rise above. Eva Luna, featuring an old acquaintance Kev Fitzgerald, plus a chap who used to pester me during my Level 3 DJ-ing days, were better, in a banshee howl kind of way, but also suffered from the crap sound.

Tara (who, incidentally, I spent most of tonight socialising with, as none of the Posse turned up!) and his delayed band came on at 11.15, and played an atmospheric and considered, yet still upbeat set; Five Thirty crossed with Spacemen 3 or some such, perhaps - which was nowhere near as dynamic as his excellent former charges, but which nevertheless I still thoroughly enjoyed. Tara, still a splendid energetic sweaty frontman, put his heart and soul into his performance, a point I made afterwards to him. A great frontman, a thoroughly nice bloke, and no mean table football player!



"Welcome to the Biggest Ever Reading Festival!" declared enthusiastic compere Steve Lamacq as a main arena intro over the PA. In practice, this means there's a couple of big diamond screens each side of the main stage, so you have half a chance of actually seeing the dots on the stage perform without cricking your neck or boggling your eyes, and the tent stage is angled slightly more outwards. That's it really; Biggest Ever? Big Deal! The forecast was for sunshine and showers, but due to my late-running hay fever season, it was more sunshine and sneezes for me today!

Still, after catching the train down, I was third punter into the arena, and caught the opening tent set from CHUCK. A local act from Reading (not far to come then!), they sported a singer uncannily reminiscent of Blackburn Rovers' £5 million man Chris Sutton, and a nice line in Manics/ Stuffies style driving pop with some good choruses. A short set, but feet were duly tapped. Next up, THE TEA PARTY were a clumsy and lumpen 90's "rawk" Doors rip-off, especially the leather clad vocalist. Stuck with it for 2 numbers then wandered into the arena for mainstage openers THE FLAMING LIPS (spotting an excellent t-shirt on the way - "Be Ve-wy Ve-wy Qwiet - I'm Hunting Wabbit!" - surely not t-shirt slogan of the weekend already?). Lay down in the early afternoon sun and drifted off to their fried, slightly-delic pop swirl, which actually wasn't as good as last year's tent performance.

Saw enough of the subsequent VERVE to realise their new incarnation is still one-paced, one-dimensional and crap, so went off back to the tent! Friday 3pm, and here was the first festival highlight, but from an unexpected source! DRUGSTORE, whom I was unsure about during their recent Velvet Crush support slot, wowed me and impressed mightily with Muses-style soundbites, angst-ridden haunting lyrics and rock-out choruses. Superb! Quality control was maintained with SMUDGE, next up. They played about a million songs of their cool and groovy guitar pop, short and snappy. Lots of Lemonheads connections (Smudge's mainman Tom Morgan is an occasional Dando collaborator, and yes, it IS that Alison on drums!), which invited the inevitable and primarily accurate comparisons, but still a damn fine set.

Had an hour to kill after that (rap acts on both stages) so shopped, had tea and sneezed. A lot! Then it was HOLE in the main arena. A potentially gory car-crash situation, this, given the subtext of vocalist Courtney love's husband Kurt Cobain's suicide earlier this year, this unfortunately more than lived up to fears. Courtney, obviously wasted (on what? Who knows?), punctuated this set with nauseous self-pity, such as, "oh yeah, I'm so brave," and, "are you pretending it never happened? I'm not..." OK, Courtney, he's dead, that's sad, but just let him rest, please, OK? Don't make a career out of it!

Musically, Hole are a 3rd rate Babes In Toyland, so I left after a few numbers, in search of some entertainment! Found it in the tent, with VELOCITY GIRL, who did the trick with some spooky guitar pop a la Belltower. Good stuff! Next up, SLEEPER, were magnificent - a spunky, speedy and dynamic set packed with 90s Blondie on acid style pop nuggets. Vocalist Louise Wener, cocky and self-assured but deservedly so, made for a splendid front-person. Delicious!

"We're THE AUTEURS and we're the hardest band at Reading," said Luke Haines as he led his band onstage. Caught 1/2 hour or so of their cultured and intelligent rockist angst, without them offering anyone else outside to prove their "hard" claim, before heading into the arena for someone who might challenge it! FRANK BLACK, "the main man," as he was introduced by Steve Lamacq, was greeted onstage with a chorus of, "You Fat Bastard!" from the melee, simply dismissing it with a casual, "every time...". Sir Rockaby's set was sleazy, sinister, self-assured, and best when drawn from his debut solo LP. "Headache", however was splendid, the jewel of a sparkling set.

Darkness (and some rather threatening rainclouds which thankfully held on to their contents) fell on the arena as THE LEMONHEADS came onstage and totally did the business. Vocalist Evan Dando, this year shorn and dressed as a man (!), left the clowning around at the stage door and delivered a stunning, committed set of sparkling, entertaining and wonderful slacker pop classics. Some magic moments; the band (including Antenna's John Strohm) bundling Evan during his acoustic encore, the duet with Smudge's Tom Morgan on "Down About It", and Evan's extraordinary bright orange jumper, but mainly a shining talent delivering top-drawer entertainment. Terrific, and the Set Of The Day by some distance.

Then, I caught the last half of LUSH's last number in the tent (bugger!), and THE WEDDING PRESENT's first, which seemed interminably long, so my brain decided it needed sleep more. So I headed off for the day, unfortunately missing a train by 10 minutes and having to wait 50 minutes for the next one. Again I doth say; bugger!


Borrowed Clive's car today and drove a carload of day trippers! Clive couldn't make it along himself, due to monetary considerations, but still lent me his motor. Ha! Does he know what he's doing? Ha! Again! So, Ady, Jared and Nina, plus Nina's Skanxter colleague Vince, joined me, arriving in time to miss the 2 rap act openers, mainly because we weren't allowed into the arena until Ady and Jared polished off their one bottle of wine - each!

First band of the day, then, was new Rhode Island lot SCARCE in the tent; and what a way to start! Blowing away the cobwebs of a restless night, Scarce (featuring a whisky-soaked, gravelly voice vocalist and a highly kinetic babe bassist/ backing vocalist in a short metallic silver dress, who made me come over all Beavis and Butthead - "huh huh, chicks in bands are cool, huh huh") ripped through a dynamic set of jagged yet melodic rock culminating in a frenzied Pixies-ish final number called "All Sideways". One to hunt down, and an early favourite for best new act. POSSUM DIXON, next up, were an odd amalgam of Truman's Water alt-rock weirdness allied to some driving rock. Not too bad in parts, but did we really need the mid-set Madonna pisstake, with the vocalist's jeans around his knees? Hmmm.

Off to the arena with Ady for KITCHENS OF DISTINCTION and their angst-fuelled tales of lost love (that's "angst" spelled beautiful, haunting and desolate, not noisy, dour and inarticulate). No "Capsule" in their set (shame) but still a spine-chilling and atmospheric set, during which I danced, shirtless. Then Ady decided he wanted to buy a waistcoat, so we went shopping, missing Jale (damn!), but got back to the tent in time to flake out during SALAD's passable indie guitar set. Then ventured inside said tent for Yank rockers LOTION, who indeed rocked out considerably more than I remembered! A fine and dynamic set of straight-head alt rock in REM-meets-Superchunk country. Then back into the mid-afternoon sun, meeting up with Ady's Southampton mates during GENE, who played a set with one or two good tunes, but phenomenally derivative of The Smiths - the bloke even moans like Morrissey, f'rchrissakes...

Ady listened to the footy results on his Walkman (1-0 wins for Swindon and Forest!), then we went off to see PULP in the arena. Their keyboard driven sexy kitsch pop was entertaining, but the sound was muddy and their performance would've been so much better in the tent. Still, an entertaining set, with "Babies" the highlight and a blue-booted Jarvis Cocker a total star - as ever! Then back into the tent - ferocious pace today! - with Ady, leaving our stuff (shirts etc.!) with Ady's Soton mate Stuart's friend Diane, and diving into the melee at the front for SUPERCHUNK. They were predictably yet powerfully magnificent; their awesome, growling noise, almost tangible at times, was played with power and intensity, and the melee responded in kind. I got ridiculously sweaty (although not as bad as Stuart, who afterwards looked as if he'd been doused, then rolled in dust!) to the best and most powerful set of the Festival so far, culminating in a tremendous and ferocious "Slack Motherfucker". Wow!

Evening fell, so I got a "Betty Ford Clinic" sweatshirt (excellent!) and settled down for SHED SEVEN. Despite excellent t-shirts, modelled on Brazil footy kits, they were merely OK; Rick Witter was a good frontman, but their Smiths meets Stone Roses in a tin shed type of pop was a little flat at times, and I went for garlic bread to warm me against the evening chill! As it then got colder (and later!), I was relying on a set from COMPULSION to warm me up, and they didn't disappoint, with a high octane half hour of compulsive (!) punk rock which just flew by. Energetic vocalist Joseph-Mary jumped up and down on a frame around the drumkit during their loud, fast, edgy set, with "Rapejacket" their best number. More please!

Then ELASTICA, who for second-top headliners in the tent did a good impression of rank amateurs. Either there's a very intelligent mind at work (that stuff sells, well, at least it does to naive student indiekids anyway. Me, I've been there with the Fall when I was 14...), or they really are that bad. Either way, one great song ("Stutter"), one other passable number, and a clutch of jerky post-punk XTC/ Wire rip-offs do not a career make. I much preferred the number that was played on the PA beforehand - "Oh Bondage Up Yours" by X-Ray Spex!

Anyway, afterwards I ventured into the tent for deserved headliners MADDER ROSE, who had an excellent crowd and reception (which was great, considering they clashed with the popular Primal Scream), and lived up to it with a splendid cultured clutch of numbers. Drawing mainly from current LP "Panic On", with which I am becoming seriously obsessed, they were touching and melodic in parts, and recklessly noisy in others. The winsome prose of "Car Song" was a shimmering highlight!

That was that! Gathered the car posse, left the site at 11.30 and home by 1/4 to 1!


Looking at the bill today, with one or two exceptions Sunday definitely did not seem like Funday! Took Clive's car back, had lunch at home and didn't bother setting off to Reading until 1/4 to 2, hitting the site at 1/4 to 3, the latest I've ever arrived there for a single day!

Got into the site, which was dusty, very windy (uh oh!) and packed (don't know why, it was a poor bill!), and saw a noisy final number from SCRAWL in the tent. The tent itself was undulating wildly in the wind - echoes of Sunday at Reading in 1992, when weather forced the closure of the tent? Hope not! Stayed tent-bound for ARCHERS OF LOAF's inarticulate howl of a set which, actually, wasn't too bad, if a little grungy and clumsy. Arena acts were running late, due to Soundgarden's late withdrawal (no replacement, despite wild rumours involving the Levellers and/or Blur), so caught most of HELMET's chunky yet inauspicious noisy rock set. Couldn't stand more than one song from crap cartoon anarcho-HM glam wankspanners THE WILDHEARTS, next up on the main stage, so ventured back to the tent for the last couple of numbers of JEFF BUCKLEY's set. One was thoroughly absorbing in a Velvet Underground wall of noise way, but the other was tame 70's singer songwriter ballady pap. Will the real Jeff Buckley please stand up?

Next, despite hailing from musical hotbed Boston, Ma., MORPHINE, with their sax-fuelled late-night (or early morning?) mood music were really not my cup of introspectiveness, so I missed the end of their nevertheless quality set whilst doing some shopping in the arena stalls, with AFGHAN WHIGS' not very attention grabbing mainstage opening few numbers as musical accompaniment. Then headed back into the tent for ECHOBELLY, but uh oh! A dirty great rip in the top of the tent caused a 1/2 hour delay, whilst some chap in a crane repaired it! Anyway, Echobelly eventually came on and were bright, energetic, spiky and spunky, really showing the likes of Elastica how to do it. And boy, can vocalist Sonya sing! "Insomniac" was the highlight of a sparkling set only slightly soured by Sonya's foul fucking language, and preaching to the converted (no need! We agree!).

Headed down the front for The CUD band, as the compere introduced them. Thought, "sod it, let's dance!" and duly did so, as Cud vocalist Carl Puttnam, shorn of his flowing curly locks and decked out in a foul blue flowery silk suit and orange frilly shirt, led the band through a tough yet totally entertaining set of their sinewy jazz dance pop. "Eau Water" and new single "One Giant love" were brilliant; Carl a wonderful showman; tonight Cud were majestic!

I stayed down the front for THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS. Now a 6-piece, fleshed out by a new bassist, drummer and horn section (including Tony Maimone, formerly of Bob Mould's band), their unorthodox oddball pop vision sounded fuller and more dynamic, yet no less fun. "Angel" (they did "Angel"!) and "Particle Man" were gems, and the inevitable "Birdhouse In Your Soul" had the whole tent jumping, singing and having a wonderful time. Sheer entertainment - They Might Be Giants turned Sunday into Funday after all, delivering the Best Set of the Festival.

Then, I ventured into the darkness-enshrouded arena for the last couple of THERAPY? numbers on the mainstage (including a dynamic "Nowhere"), then had a late garlic mushroom tea listening to AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB in the tent. Their countrified yank rock was pleasant enough, but didn't really stick, and the 10.03 train was calling me from down the line. So I left the site at 20 to 10, bidding adieu to a fine festival overall, capped by the best performance of the weekend in the dying stages, thanks to They Might Be Giants!


Friday Best: 1. LEMONHEADS, 2. SLEEPER, 3. FRANK BLACK (of 14)
Saturday Best: 1. SUPERCHUNK, 2. MADDER ROSE, 3. SCARCE (of 9)
Sunday Best: 1. THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, 2. CUD, 3. ECHOBELLY (of 11)


Best New Band: 1. SCARCE. Struggling after that...
Sorry I Missed: RADIOHEAD (again!), The rest of THE AUTEURS and JEFF BUCKLEY, JALE. And what happened to THE GIGOLO AUNTS? They were supposed to play the tent Saturday but didn't even get as far as the bill!
Stars Of The Show: 1. The two Johns from THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, 2. Carl Puttnam of CUD, 3. Evan Dando, 4. Stuart from Southampton after the Chunk set, 5. Ady (waistcoat boy!)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

273 PALE SAINTS, Supp. Cranes, Windsor Old Trout, Friday 16 September 1994

A strange evening, this! Drove down with Ady and got into the very well-attended Trout after having to queue (normally unheard of in this place), and just had time to get the beers in, before Pale Saints, my main reason for attending tonight, took the stage on the stroke of 9. Talk about timing!

Pale Saints, the 1994 incarnation, with Meriel Graham taking over vocal chores from departed founder member Ian Masters, and former Heart Throbs/ Parachute Men bassist and my favourite Canadian Colleen Browne taking over the bass duties, are a different beast than before; more ethereal and less rough and hard-edged, but no less timeless and totally absorbing. Recent, rockier yet still splendidly haunting number "Angel" got me rocking out, and the surprising but no less welcome "Sight Of You" (their debut, and still finest hour), with perfectly understated vocals delivered by Colleen (good work, girl!). However, I was the only one to do so - bloody indifferent Windsor Goth audience! Nevertheless, tonight Pale Saints were majestic, and I chatted to Colleen afterwards (who I'm glad to say remembered me from those old Paras/ Heart Throbs days), congratulating her not only on the superb set, but also on the fact that tonight she became the first person I'd seen play live in 3 different bands!

Retreated to the bar while The Cranes were on; their Gothy (no doubt pierced) navel-gazing introspection is not my cup of tea, I find vocalist Alison's little girl lost vocal style irritating, and tonight their set was also beset with technical problems. I had a far more interesting time standing at the bar; firstly I was chatted up by a hyperactive helium-voiced barman, who alleged I made the Chippendales look like scarecrows (his words, not mine!) and simply said, "what a waste," when I informed him both of my heterosexuality and marital status! Then I witnessed some serious hero-worship (I mean serious - fainting, screaming, the lot) by some Goth girls for a bemused chap standing next to me at the bar, whom I was later informed by some German punter was Simon Gallup of The Cure! As I said, a strange old evening!

274 THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, Waltons, Brian Dewan, London Shepherd's Bush Empire, Saturday 1 October 1994

Following their "Top Band" performance at Reading Festival this year and a splendid, slightly more serious album in "John Henry", They Might Be Giants are having a good year, so I was well up for this London headliner. Did a bit of shopping "oop The Smoke" today, before popping along to this venue, a new (to me) theatre-type hall on the outskirts of Shepherd's Bush Green. Got there just before first support Brian Dewan took the stage; a suit-and-tied chap with a lap guitar, singing very strange songs about painted corpses and poking his eye out. Occasionally curiously entertaining, and certainly, on reflection, more memorable than The Waltons, a very ordinary wallpaper pop combo who recalled the likes of Crowded House and Aztec Camera, only not in a favourable light.

John and John, the 2 joint inspirations behind TMBG, joined us at 9.15, starting with the booming acapella of "O Do Not Forsake Me" (so much for my assertion that they'd never try that one live!) and, again joined by the full 6-piece band accompaniment, proceeded to rock the house! "Welcome to our ambient techno house mix," little John offered as the introduction to oldie "Don't Let's Start". A hugely entertaining, wryly funny, oddball, offbeat yet deliciously vibrant and tune-filled hour and 3/4 (including encores) ensued. Highlights? Lots to choose from but "Particle Man", "Angel" a gem again, "Whistling In The Dark" were amongst the best tonight. I joined the moshpit (yup, a They Might Be Giants moshpit! Will wonders never cease?) and danced my legs off. Quality control maintained after Reading; great stuff!

275 RADIOHEAD, THE JULIE DOLPHIN, Portsmouth Pyramids Centre, Tuesday 4 October 1994

A swift run down to the South Coast for an enticing double-header of bands got us there at 1/4 to 8, only to find support The Julie Dolphin were due on at 8.30, not 8 as I'd been told. So we didn't need to break those speed limits after all...

This however meant that when The Julie Dolphin took the stage, I was firmly installed down the front, and started off an ever-increasing moshpit to TJD's splendid and committed performance. This band, finally on a big stage, really took flight, and played a spunky, spiky, often sinister, often ethereal and dreamy, but always dynamic and rocking set with bags of confidence. Some new, punkier numbers, mixed in with the increasingly familiar favourites, kicked some serious ass too! Brilliant stuff from a band rapidly becoming one of my favourite live experiences.

Bumped into Geoff Haydon, TJD's now blond bassist, for a chat and quick congrats, before Radiohead took the stage at 1/4 to 10. Apparently streaming with colds (as I was too, hence my moshpit "kill or cure" treatment!), they nevertheless put together a tremendous set, fulfilling their status as a rising band with great potential. Mixing old favourites with newer, slower-paced but harder-edged numbers, petulant young man vocalist Thom Yorke was a splendid focus for Radiohead's occasionally nice, occasionally nasty moody mood music. "Creep", described by Thom as, "a song which could really wreck my life," got the whole joint jumping, a little surprisingly given its' slow-burn pace, but encore "Vegetable" raised the roof and was the best thing they delivered all evening.

All in all, a couple of tremendous performances delivered by 2 bands in top form. A great evening!

276 VENUS, Poker Alice, Swindon Monkey Club, Wednesday 12 October 1994

A free gig! I like this! So I popped down to the venue midway through the England-Romania game, watching the second half and playing pool with Clive while the crap cabaret support were on, cheered on by their mates.

I ran into Venus and former Sweet Jesus mainman Ben Bentley just before their set, and was a little disappointed when he informed me that they were planning an all-new set tonight, because of their new band line-up. I'd been feverishly playing their seductive debut album "Miss Paris" in preparation; d'oh! However, my disappointment was blown away by a committed performance; the new material, more bluesy/ rocky and "in your face" than "Miss Paris"' perfect shimmering pop, was, nevertheless, packed with great pop tunes. Ben, actually singing rather than breathlessly whispering as per his Sweet Jesus days, put on a splendid passionate frontman's performance to myself, Clive and six other semi-interested parties. Damn shame.

Great set; when I asked Ben afterwards, he said Venus are starting from scratch again, grass roots, bottom up. Well, judging by Swindon's lack of interest, it seems that from here on in, the only way is up!

277 SUGAR, Cardiff University, Friday 14 October 1994

A late trip down, a pea-soup fog and a motor with a dodgy alternator does not make for a confidence-filling journey, but Ady and I still made it to this gig! Arrived at 8.45, in time to completely miss support Puppy Love Bomb (d'oh!), and to just get a pint in and wander into the full and expectant hall before Sugar's ETA.

Sure enough, at the appointed hour of 9 pm, the lights went out and Bob Mould and the boys sauntered onto the stage, looking for all the world like a gang of storemen delivering a sofa, casually plugged in, then ripped venomously into "The Gift". I plunged into the increasing melee for 3rd number in, the strident chiming growl of "Changes", and gave it loads in the frantic moshpit, as Bob and the boys kicked up an awesome primal rock noise onstage. Sweat drenched, Bob (now chunked up, looking more like the legendary towering monolith of the Husker Du days) passionately exploded through this set, which was mainly drawn from the (say it quietly) slightly disappointing new LP, "File Under Easy Listening", and a clutch of growling newies. As ever, they made best sense when experienced with the hordes of frenzied dancers in the moshpit, so I'm glad I was one of them!

After almost 1 1/2 hours of loud, dynamic rock, I was drenched and my ears were buzzing, but I totally enjoyed tonight's set. A little leaden in parts (especially the first encore dirge), but I'll forgive him that, as the pure popcore rush of the likes of "Gee Angel" (easily "FUEL"s best track) and "If I Can't Change Your Mind" more than made up for that.

Oh yeh, and the drive home - again through pea-soup fog - was a lot quicker, at 1 1/4 hours!

278 THE JULIE DOLPHIN, Headless Chickens, London Islington Powerhaus, Saturday 22 October 1994

The Julie Dolphin? Hang about, wasn't tonight supposed to be Green Day at the Astoria? Clive and I certainly set off with Green Day tix in our possession, but chatted about the possibility of selling them and going for our current "live" faves, the clashing Julie Dolphin, on the way up. When we arrived at the Astoria, we sussed out the crowd (heaving, overly-expectant, a little hostile) for the sell-out Green Day show, got an over-the-odds offer for our tix, and duly cashed in, deciding profitability was the better option and heading gleefully over to the Powerhaus!

Met up with TJD and had a chat with Geoff and Brett, dodging accusations of utter madness from all and sundry for blowing off Green Day in favour of them! We then were entertained by support band Headless Chickens, who came on at 9.30 to a surprisingly rapturous welcome, and laid on a set of taut, tense and in your face funky dance stuff, not unlike a more aggressive New FADS, or Basti (remember them?). Either way, a jolly enjoyable start!

The Julie Dolphin came on at 10.45, and set the place totally on fire with another tremendous performance. Another enthusiastic crowd, and TJD did them full justice with their superb, jagged and well-rocking "punk with attitude" pop style. Following a clutch of newies, the more familiar "Kill Me" and the frantic closing "Head", both highlights from "Lit", easily the Number One Album of 1994, were also set highlights tonight as, shirtless, I slam-danced in the moshpit with an increasing number of enthusiastic bodies.

Said our farewells to the band after a brilliant set, then we had a total tube-mare due to the lateness of the hour (past midnight now), waiting 25 minutes at Kings Cross and missing our connection at Shepherd's Bush, thereby needing to catch a taxi to Ealing Common, where we'd parked, and in the process wiping out much of our Green Day ticket profit! As a consequence, we didn't get back into Swindon until 2.30. D'oh! Good thing the clocks went back tonight!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

279 STEREOLAB, Laika, Bristol Fleece, Tuesday 8 November 1994

Knackered before I started, thanks to some intensive footy at Cricklade with Dave's work buddies, but I nevertheless trotted off to this one, arriving at a packed Fleece at 8.30, unfortunately in time to be subjected to the tuneless bleeps and clanks of the crap support band.

The Groop (!) themselves came on at 9.50; French Stereolab vocalist and Roxy from "Home And Away" lookalike, Laetetia Sadier, led the 'Lab on, nonchalantly kicking into their monotone stereophonic pop. Sometimes brilliantly boppy (the early, thrilling "French Disko", by far and away their best number, and also latest single, the groovy "Ping Pong"), sometimes a load of tuneless keyboard dirge (the encore - did it really last 20 minutes, or did it just seem like it?), their keyboard based Euro Disko was nevertheless intriguing. I had a bop to the early part of the set, including the aforementioned 2 top numbers, and ended up even more knackered in the process!

Oh, and Stereolab showed an excellent way to beat the Fleece's 11pm curfew; start a 20 minute long song at 5 to!

280 ELECTRAFIXION, MARION, Reverb, Gloucester Guildhall Arts Centre, Saturday 19 November 1994

For this eagerly awaited "Return Of The Mac", I was on my own, having a good run (3/4 hour) to Gloucester, and parking up in St. Michael's Car Park while some louts were smashing up the nearby phone boxes! Needless to say, I made a check on the car during the evening!

Reverb, a local (Cheltenham) band, came on at 1/4 to 9 and kicked off with their best number, the slightly-delic guitar noise of the aptly-named "Swirl". Their ensuing set was a very enjoyable romp through their record collection, taking in shades of the Wedding Present's choppy guitar attack, Husker Du's popcore and The Jam's modish push'n'shove delivery along the way. Good stuff! Better yet was to come, however, as tour support Marion burst onto the stage, impressing and exciting both myself and most of the packed crowd of Indie kids and old Bunnyfans with an edgy, insistent and urgent set, not unlike the early Wonderstuff crossed with Sweet Jesus! Jamie, their young pretty boy vocalist, can certainly hold a tune, and, furthermore, their songs have a definite driving, sinister "edge" which usually denotes a great band. Their debut single "Sleep", tremendous tonight, is out in January; definitely one to hunt down!

The witching hour arrived; 10.30, and dry ice enveloped the darkened stage, heralding the entrance of Electrafixion, former Echo And the Bunnymen vocalist Ian McCulloch's new band, incorporating fellow former Bunnyman Will Sergeant, plus a couple of spritely young pups. Their set was excellent; typical Bunnymen imagery and characteristics such as strong strident vocals, brain hugging tunes and a fair amount of light and shade style song construction, only this time married to Sugar-esque loud, fierce and driving guitar work. Mac, older, wiser and less fluffy of hair, was no less a star; shooting out the lights with his fingers, asking, "any Scousers here?" in self-mocking tone, and singing with a surprising passion that blew away the years, and underlined their vitality. The accompanying light show (and a more baffling black and white newsreel of The Grand National, filmed backwards and upside down!) merely augmented the overall impression. A night to remember; make no mistake, Mac is back!

281 THE NUBILES, Absolution, Swindon Monkey Club, Wednesday 23 November 1994

This was the first night of an "Ex Five Thirty Extravaganza" double-bill at The Monkey Club, so being a big fan of this late, lamented early 90's swirly post-baggy rabble, I was up for both nights! First off, towering vocalist Tara Milton's new charges The Nubiles, once again visitors to The Monkey. I stomped along at 10, following footy and in my hire car, booked for a course in Bristol tomorrow! Ran into Beef, and also aforementioned vocalist Tara, during Absolution's New Model Army/ Levellers set, which I hated. Chatted with Tara, during which he hotly refuted a romantic rumour in this week's NME (Donna Elastica???), and also promised to send me a Nubiles tape! Tara, I'm still waiting...

The Nubiles were on at 10.30, and played a very dynamic set of hard-edged swirly pop, which was much more "in your face" than their previous Monkey set. The numbers suffered from poor sound on occasions, especially in songs featuring repetitive hooklines, but stuff like "Mother And Father" (a more considered song, building to a crescendo) and "Smile On" (not actually what it's called, but I couldn't remember what Tara called it, so this was the hook!) were highlights of a fine set, delivered energetically by the melting man himself!

A shame Swindon was so unreceptive; me and Beef tapped our toes, and a couple of other bodies were paying half attention, but no-one else! Nevertheless, it's always good to see the articulate and friendly Tara, and it was cheap - £2.50 in total for both this and tomorrow night's Orange Deluxe gig!

282 ORANGE DELUXE, Canvas Sky, Mike's Dirty Quilt, Swindon Monkey Club, Thursday 24 November 1994

This was the second night of an "Ex Five Thirty Extravaganza"; following former Five Thirty vocalist Tara's new charges The Nubiles yesterday, we have guitar hero Paul Bassett and his new band of rock junkies and rejects. Bassett, now the main man and a peroxide blond, nevertheless recognised me from those halcyon Five Thirty days, when I arrived at the venue!

First, though, the supports; Mike's Dirty Quilt were a gang of local lads who, barely out of garage practice stage, nevertheless showed a nice ear for a tune, when you ignored the considerable rough edges. Better than Canvas Sky, who formed a musical wallpaper backdrop to my beating Clive at pool!

Orange Deluxe came on at 10.10 and treated us to some down and dirty rock'n'roll, the type your mother definitely wouldn't like! Elements of punk, Hendrix, ragged psychedelia, wah-wah and dirty blues funk were all brought together into this sleazy Orange Deluxe sound. Paul Bassett, all eyes on him now, nevertheless turned out to be an energetic and exciting frontman as well, leading the band through some primal rock'n'roll. A great set; as I remarked to Paul afterwards, that was the first but hopefully not the last time I see Orange Deluxe!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

283 HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT, plus support, Swindon Monkey Club, Saturday 10 December 1994

An unprecedented 3 gigs in a row at the Monkey Club; this time for Birkenhead's finest purveyors of utter nonsense Half Man Half Biscuit, whom I'd been a fan of back in the 80's thanks to their ramshackle, funny "Back In The DHSS" album and "Trumpton Riots" single, lost touch with thereafter, and consequently never seen play "live". This gig coincided with Tranmere Rovers' 2-2 draw at the County Ground that afternoon - coincidence? I very much doubt it...

Anyway, a packed Monkey Club firstly had to cope with the dull retro 80's pop of the support band; I didn't catch their name as I was too busy playing pool with Ady (and losing. Bah!).

Popped down the front for HMHB, who came on at 20 to 10 - presumably so they could be finished in time to watch "Match Of The Day"! Vocalist Nigel Blackwell, a determinedly ordinary bloke, led this ramshackle rabble through a splendid sounding set whilst munching crisps (!) and fending off shouts of "John Aldridge is a wanker!" (his response to that being, "no he's not! Well, he probably is, actually...") The set made me regret I'd lost touch with them, as most of the "newer" stuff was wild, witty and wonderful, with "4AD 3D CD", "Sensitive Outsider" ("and I want the world to know!") and "Friday Night And The Gates Are Low" (a tribute both to Abba and Tranmere Rovers' 1980's Friday evening home games!) the best of this new bunch. "Fucking Hell, It's Fred Titmus" (unplanned but played anyway as it was the most popular shout from the crowd!) capped this most entertaining evening superbly, as HMHB showed other indie satirists, such as Sultans Of Ping et al, that there's life in the old 'uns yet!

284 VERUCA SALT, MARION, Skunk Anansie, NME "Brats" Bus Tour, Bristol University Anson Rooms, Friday 20 January 1995

After a ticket-mare on our intended gig on Sunday (Bettie Serveert at the Fleece - sold out, mainly due to rising star support Jeff Buckley. Bah!), I made sure that tickets were going to be available by phoning the promoter beforehand; only to get there and find out that this too was sold out. Bah! Still, I managed to wangle a couple from said promoter by reminding him of our call and appealing to his better nature, and Clive got one from a punter outside, so he, me and Beef went in (Ady and Nibs "volunteering" to go to the pub instead!), missing openers 60 Ft. Dolls, but unfortunately in time to see Skunk Anansie's clumsy Killing Joke crossed with Public Enemy crap rap. Noisy and unformed, so we got the beers in instead!

Beef chatted up some 16 year old girlie, who joined us with her mates (including 2 scantily clad lasses, one of whom wrote "fuck me" on her amply displayed bosom. Subtle, non?) before we decanted to the hall for Marion. A new discovery following their splendid Electrafixion tour support slot at the arse end of last year, they were again impressive, with a spunky, spiky set of urgent and somewhat off-kilter, slightly creepy guitar anthems, embellished perfectly by Jamie Harding's passionate vocals. An excellent set, during which I moshed frantically!

Back in the bar before Veruca Salt's set at 10. The two boy/ two girl Yank post-grunge combo impressed occasionally with Pixies/ Breeders type savage guitar chops and feminist anthems, but a lot of numbers in their set merged into each other (lack of variation? Or was it the beer? The truth, as ever, likely lies somewhere in between...). "Seether", an excellent single by any standards, was obviously the highlight. Maybe they should write another song soon! (Ouch!)

I'm being harsh; I've seen a lot worse, and they were enjoyable in a monotone rocky way. After their set, I chatted away to the Marion bassist Jools; he informed me that former Bunnyman and current Electrafixion godhead Ian McCulloch was in the building. Despite a search, I missed him. D'oh!

285 VELVET CRUSH, 18 Wheeler, London Highbury Garage, Friday 17 February 1995

A slow start to the gigging year thus far, but they're going to start coming thick and fast now! This one was also a "first"; the first time in 3 attempts that "Nibs" has managed to actually get into the gig, following a couple of sell-outs! We (me and Nibs, plus Dave, Ady and Clive the drive) arrived at 10 to 9 after a difficult journey through London, full of anticipation for "The Crush". But first, the sorcerer's apprentices, as it were; support 18 Wheeler, who took the stage dead on 9. They kicked off with a rocking start, which dipped slightly midway through the set, when they started to come across slightly derivative of Teenage Fanclub. However, they then picked up noticeably later on, with "Revealer" a highlight, and a set climax much more like their magical, harmony-laden LP.

The venue was well packed for "The Crush", but I still managed to squirm my way down the front for their entrance at 10. Led on by drummer and mainman Ric Menck, an imposing figure in denim, with scruffy hair and a drop-handlebar moustache which gave him the impression of being none other than the lost Doobie Brother (!), the Crush, also augmented tonight by extra guitarist Tommy Keene (apparently a quality singer-songwriter in his own right, as I later found out), kicked off a majestic set with swirling oldie "Window To the World". A splendid selection of their country-tinged rock ("powerpop, I guess," Menck himself called it!), which was touching and careworn in parts (such as the wonderful "Why Not Your Baby", introduced after quite a preamble by Ric!), and breathlessly manic as you like in others (such as the brilliant "Atmosphere" and the frantic, incendiary "This Life Is Killing Me") followed. Utterly wonderful musicianship, excitement, a well-rocking set climax, the usual Crush lunacy from the mesmerising Menck, and a whole lot of great songs played with passion and care; this all equalled one brilliant set!

286 DRUGSTORE, Bear, Bristol Brewhouse, Saturday 18 February 1995

A prospective double header which became a single header, this one; we stumbled across the venue in the pissing rain, along Stokes Croft Road, opposite old haunt The Tropic (remember that??). It turned out to be a closet room in the back of a pub, and quite the tiniest venue I've ever been to! I announced to Clive and Beef that I was going to take a walk around the place, took 4 circular steps and was back where I started! Also, needless to say, it filled up quite quickly!

A big disappointment was that Boston's Velo Deluxe, mooted support for tonight, had pulled out; bummer! So instead we made do with Sheffield's Bear, an odd 3-piece who at their best were akin to a shoegazing Wedding Present (imagine that!), but at worst, which was most of the set, sounded unformed, unrehearsed and just plain rubbish.

Drugstore, on at 10, more than made up for it, however; Isabel, the diminutive bassist/ vocalist/ main inspiration, kicked off with a solo number, but when joined by the full band complement (both of them!) really soared! Their occasionally fragile paeans to lost love, hate and desolation, took on new shape and solidity "live". The packed Brewhouse responded accordingly, and the band played a blinder, feeding off the enthusiasm and lapping it up. A splendid set of dark, sensual little ballads, mingled with racy and rocking choruses, with my own favourite "Gravity" being a personal highlight. An encore of Pavement's "Cut Your Hair", and another couple of solo numbers from Isabel (including a brand new one which Isabel only did solo as the band haven't learnt it yet!) embellished the set, and rounded off a perfect night. A brief chat with the band afterwards revealed they enjoyed it as much as we did!

287 BELLY, Cold Water Flat, Bristol University Anson Rooms, Friday 24 February 1995

Quality control for 1995's gigs thus far is very high indeed! Off to the Anson Rooms tonight in Ady's motor, driving down with a non-functioning speedo so we had no idea how fast we were going!

Got there just as support Cold Water Flat took the stage. Featuring Paul Janovitz on vocals (who must be a relation of Bill, considering how much they sounded like Bill's band Buffalo Tom! Ah yes, I later found out he's Bill's younger brother), they played a good set of Tom-like power rock ballads and occasional three-chord trippery, leaving a most favourable impression.

Decanted to the bar thereafter, but we didn't have long to wait for Belly, who were on at 9.15, and straight into "Faith Healer", one of the faster numbers from their harder rocking sophomore LP "King". That they were able to align this harder edge to their previous pure pop fantasy fables and put it across in the "live" environment is thanks in no small part to "Rock Bitch" bassist Gail Greenwood. I've often been critical of her presence in this band in the past, considering her a jarring presence, but tonight she gave the set the extra dynamism the more recent material in particular required.

Oh, and Belly main-woman Tanya Donelly was pretty good too! After a watching brief during the early numbers, I joined the moshpit midway through the set, and gave it loads, shirtless, to a powerful rocking set climaxing in a terrific, amphetamine rush encore "Slow Dog". I bumped into a similar dishevelled Ady down the front after that!

Oh, and thanks to the local knowledge of Peej, another of tonight's gig buddies, we found a "pub grub" takeaway afterwards and had roast dinners - at 11pm!

288 RADIOHEAD, Marion, Bristol University Anson Rooms, Friday 10 March 1995

I seem to have a season ticket for this place at the moment! Still, shorts-clad and ready to go, we drove down anticipating a fine double-header, and as soon as we arrived, I headed straight for the moshpit for another great set from tonight's support Marion. The Manc superstars in waiting were totally brilliant again; ringing guitars and incendiary rhythm and pace, with pretty boy superstar-to-be Jamie Harding again grabbing the attention, despite having about as much room to dance as we in the crowded moshpit had! Their set already seems so familiar; "Time" with it's pulsating rhythms and plaintive, "are you missing her..." hookline, "I Stop Dancing" with it's racy chorus and "Oh'"s from Jamie; all reinforcing the fact that this band have all the marks of being destined for greatness and a wider audience - real soon!

By contrast, Radiohead were merely alright. Promoting the new, slower paced album "The Bends", which for me is somewhat disappointing after the bright swagger of their "Pablo Honey" debut, a lot of the songs in this set seemed withdrawn and introverted. The set really only came to life during oldies "Stop Whispering" and "Vegetable", which were nevertheless excellent from my moshpit vantage point. Still, they were onto a tough job following Marion in their current form; they just slightly couldn't live up to it. Sorry boys!

289 DRUGSTORE, Delicatessen, Windsor Old Trout, Wednesday 29 March 1995

Why is it that, just recently, excursions to this splendid riverside venue in Windsor have to be somewhat extraordinary? This was no different, but seemed normal enough as we arrived seconds before doors, barging our way to the front. First in!

Moody support Delicatessen were a late night Morphine/ Nick Cave melange, only without the quality of material. Okay, but not my cup of introspectiveness. Stayed at the bar instead!

Drugstore, on at 10 past 10, were again excellent, with vocalist Isabel the focal point of a dynamic performance of their spooky, haunting and sinister mood muse-ic. A total star - and I say this despite personally being told to fuck off and buy her a drink, after I damned "Superglider" with seemingly faint praise! Well, I really don't understand why Drugstore have this tag of being 3 a.m. maudlin bar room blues merchants, as so much of their material strikes me as celebratory. Their best number, the encore "Gravity", is a perfect example of this; "we are hopelessly waiting for the sky to fall down" can only be sung with a big grin, surely!!

Popped backstage for apologies (!), and chats with the band, while the boys went off for some grub in Windsor, then thanks to a serious miscommunication, I couldn't find them so I had to wait for 1 1/2 hours by the car in an increasingly freezing riverside car park, before they returned, bellies full of curry. By this time I'd also helped Drugstore pack up and waved them away. D'oh! Still, as I said, another extraordinary night!

290 THE BOO RADLEYS, 60 Ft. Dolls, Portsmouth Pyramids Centre, Wednesday 12 April 1995

First time at the Pyramids, a splendid new seafront venue, in the light - they're huge! Drove down with the usual car-full and got in just before the support band, 60 Ft. Dolls, a New Wave Of New Wave spiky punk-influenced band, made their entrance. They played an enjoyable set of speedy bursts that would've been super in a small venue, but lost something in this large, high ceiling-ed echoey hall. I spent much of their set playing "Spot The Influence"; mainly The Jam!

I leapt straight into the melee after approximately 2 seconds of the Boo Radley's opening number, the libidinous dancey delight of "I Hang Suspended", and promptly stayed there for the duration. The Boos - a totally different proposition these days from the clumsy, leaden animal I saw back in 1990 with The Heart Throbs - have developed, via a splendid experimental album "Giant Steps", into a swirling, pseudo psychedelic, tune-laden pure pop beast, and were excellent tonight, belying a reputation for slight dodginess "live". Disregarding their more self-indulgent, "dubby" side in the "live" environment, they played a splendid sounding clutch of happy, catchy pop classics, including the inevitable "Wake Up Boo!", and the encore (and new single) "Find The Answer Within" which was the highlight of a sparkling set. Great stuff!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

291 PULP, The Bluetones, Bristol University Anson Rooms, Friday 21 April 1995

A fourth gig so far this early gig year at the Anson Rooms, and a late one as well this time, thanks to it being part of Radio 1's "Bristol Sound City" promotion, and being broadcast on the old wireless. So, Ady and I didn't get there until 9.30, then also had to sell a couple of spare tickets as 2 of our number had dropped out at short notice thanks to work and headaches!

Played "Spot The Fashion Victim" in the bar - a favourite parlour game - before John Peel (yes, even he) introduced new band The Bluetones. Surfing the latest Blur-influenced zeitgeist wave, they were merely nice; poppy, pleasant, inoffensive, utterly forgettable!

Pulp were next up, just after 11, and caught us on the hop as we were expecting advertised main support Dreadzone next! Anyway, Jarvis Cocker, elegant raconteur and currently every indie kid's favourite vaguely smutty uncle, led Pulp through a carefully chosen and pindrop-perfect sounding set of both oldies and newies. Absolutely brilliantly delivered, with dynamism and showmanship in equal measure, Pulp's sleazy and sinister keyboard-fuelled sex-music was outstanding tonight. A delicious "Babies" and a mesmeric closer (and new single) "Common People" - surely an anthem in the making - were the set highlights, but I could honestly have picked any of them tonight!

No encores though (bloody Radio 1 "live" transmission!), so we left on Pulp's conclusion, just after 12. Were Dreadzone headlining? Who cares?

292 THE BOO RADLEYS, 60 Ft. Dolls, Coast, London Shepherd's Bush Empire, Saturday 29 April 1995

Hit the road at 5.30 after going to footy; Swindon's home defeat by Portsmouth consigned this gutless team and their awful manager Steve McMahon to relegation to Division 2. Sad? Not I! There are more important things in life - gigs, for one!

Ady came along in our packed carload on a flyer, and got a ticket from a tout, thereby joining us up on the balcony, in the Gods; "Level 3", ironically for a Saturday!

Coast, on at 8, played an admirable set of chunky, if unformulated, guitar pop. Apparently they're yet another Creation guitar band from Scotland - hardly original therefore, but by no means poor.

60 Ft. Dolls, on at 8.45ish, were spiky and spunky, and ripped through an amphetamine-rush of a set which actually must've been splendid from the moshpit. I'm actually warming to the Dolls on repeated exposures, despite the one or two (well, lots then) obvious Jam comparisons.

The Boos kept us waiting for awhile after the lights went down, but eventually emerged, with vocalist Sice wearing a floppy mop-top wig! "I Hang Suspended", a brilliantly poppy opener, was followed by virtually the same set as at Portsmouth a couple of weeks ago, Sice (wig discarded after a couple of numbers; "it's better without it," he reckons) leading the Boos through their usual mix of oddball pure pop, and psychedelic pastoral landscapes. "Lazy Day", the set closer, and the encore "Find The Answer Within", highlights of another fine sparkling night out on the Boos (ouch)!