Sunday, 6 March 2016

977 THE JUNE BRIDES, The Wolfhounds, Clipper, London Oxford Street 100 Club, Saturday 5th March 2016

A late addition to the Spring Dance Card, this; my old friend Paul Crowfoot, now domiciled in Seattle and with whom I’d re-connected with last year, was in Europe for a few weeks with work, and fancied a jaunt to the UK, to catch up with family and also catch a gig! He suggested this one to me, also inviting along another old friend; Roger Herman, now up in the Midlands, but happy to trip down to Swindon to join us! So, a whole load of “first time since...” attached to this gig; first time I’d been to a gig with Paul since The Amps in December 1995 (gig 311), first time for me and Rog since Ride in March 1990 (159) and the first time I’d met him at one since Astrid in August 2000, and likewise, the first time I’d seen hosts The June Brides since the only previous time at Level 3 in May 1986, nearly 30 years ago!

A lot of catching up to do, then, so I picked the boys up at 5.30 for a swift dive oop The Smoke, the years and miles peeling away effortlessly in reminiscing. Tubed in and hit the venue dead on 8, wandering downstairs to this evocative old haunt, formerly one of the cradles of the 70’s punk scene. A sparse crowd greeted opening band Clipper, late to the stage at 8.15. Painfully young (“the grandchildren of C86,” we remarked!), their set was ramshackly, unfocussed, a bit all over the place at times but not without charm, particularly their 3rd, brand new number, the best and most coherent in the set. “This is a new number, so it might be a bit rough around the edges,” introduced the curtain-haired vocalist as they set off on another pleasantly meandering jangle-fest. “As opposed to…” I thought…! A polite set ended politely, with a Brilliant Corners-lite final number being preceded by the boys saying, “thank you for having us!” Their parents (most here tonight, filming them on their phones) clearly brought them up well…!

So then on to The Wolfhounds, a band of similar vintage to tonight’s headliners. Fellow C86 contributors, for some reason I’d blanked on them back in the day so approached this set completely cold. I was impressed from the outset; much more hard-edged and aggressive than the usual innocuous strumalong sound that era evokes, their opener was fast, frantic and almost menacing in its’ metronomic guitar groove, recalling a more overt Wedding Present and setting the tone for the set. “Divide And Fall”, apparently a more recent number, was a thrilling MBV-esque squalling noise with an insistent hook, and oldie “Anti Midas Touch” was more acerbic and angular. Running over time, they had to cut a couple of numbers, but overall they left a very favourable impression, a point I remarked to affable badger-haired vocalist David Callahan afterwards. Some catching up to do on this lot for me, then…

Grabbed a list, plus one for Rog and one for comedian Stewart Lee, who was standing behind us rocking out and was thus grateful for the souvenir! The 6-piece June Brides then followed in very short order, taking the stage barely 10 minutes later at 9.45, led by diminutive vocalist Phil Wilson, dapper in suit jacket and white chinos. Initially they eased into their set very politely, opener “The Instrumental” understated, with John Hunter's trumpet blare, so overt on record, a little lost in the mix. Even 3rd number, the endearingly gauche ramshackle bop of “Every Conversation” (introduced by Phil as, “time for some gyrating”) was restrained and respectful. A lovely “I Fall” continued this vein, the deferential version accentuating its’ fragility and layers of deep melancholy, a key aspect of June Brides’ material, and actually working perfectly for this particular number. Then it all changed…

“On The Rocks”, next up, was a galloping rockabilly beast, appropriating the riff and rhythm from Elvis’ “His Latest Flame”, and thereafter the restraints were off, the sound tougher, powerful, more strident, the band finally hitting their stride. Guitarist and co-vocalist Simon Beasley remarked, “you’re gonna love our 10 minute version of “The Lord’s Prayer” (a nice touch in this venue!), and before a thrillingly punky “Sick, Tired and Drunk” Phil made reference to the ’76 Punk Festival being here, “30 years ago… no, 40!” A fiddle-led “In The Rain” ended the set, before encores of a racey, almost spooky “Heard You Whisper” and the toughened up folky jig of “No Place Called Home” got the crowd rocking and rounded off a set of two halves, coming in like a lamb and roaring out like a lion!

Grabbed a list and tracked down various Brides afterwards, recalling that Swindon gig in the process and enjoying chats with Phil and Simon in particular, before hitting the road, buoyed by some splendid music in great company, again both off and onstage. A red-eyed 1.30 home, but happy with that. After all, tonight was the first time since…!

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