Friday, 29 July 2022

1,239 SI AND MATT HALL, Jim Blair and Hip Route, Swindon The Tuppenny, Thursday 28th July 2022

 


“We’d like to thank Covid 19 for our second headline show of the year!” deadpanned Si at the start of their set tonight, this (very!) short notice replacement gig being due to tonight’s intended headliners at The Tuppenny’s regular Thursday night Music Club testing positive for the dreaded ‘rona. Thankfully no-one was really ill from it (hence Si feeling able to make the above comment!), but this gave me a local gig on an otherwise quiet Thursday, catching up with the brothers Hall, former mainstays of Raze*Rebuild, one of my favourite bands of recent times, and now ploughing a more acoustic version of said band’s blend of Springsteen-esque heartland Americana and Mould-esque hooky popcore sonic assault. A combination of family commitments and lack of funds meant I missed their recent “My Dad’s” Festival set, but having caught them last month at The Beehive (gig 1,233) I knew Si and Matt were in fine form. So here we go!

 Parked in a free sidestreet spot after finding my now-preferred free-after-6 car park was full, and wandered around to the ‘Tupp just after 8, chatting with Matt about our kids (!). Local mainstay Jim Blair, who’d also thrown his hat in the ring as a late replacement tonight, was just finishing sound-checking, and, along with Hip Route bass partner John, started their duet set shortly afterwards. Jim, a flared trousered, barefoot rocker with the soul and husky, grizzled voice of a Mississippi Delta bluesman, and his baseball-capped cohort John laid down some down and dirty old school swampy blues, slightly affected by speaker issues (promoter and soundman Ed Dyer remarking someone had thrown a glass of whisky over it!) but with Jim’s highly proficient and intricate fretwork a feature, particularly after switching to a lap steel for the set’s denouement. The slow burn to noisy crescendo of “Find My Way” and closer, a growling rendition of the old standard “Come Together” were highlights of a good set. Still not to my usual tastes, but my narrow-minded ears are still suitably educated to recognise talent. And these boys have that…

 An entertaining between-sets discourse with Ed (or should I say, “Teddy”?!) before I had a pre-gig chat with Si about his recent hand issues – the new guitar helps, but he needs to educate his muscle memory into playing softer and gripping less hard! As we mentioned before, you can take the boy out of the punk band, I guess, but…! Further evidence of that, as Si and Matt kicked in at 9.40 with a smooth “Rhythm And Rhyme”, came from his one foot back, forward leaning stance to deliver his somewhat reined-in yet no less authoritative vocals. Following an early, melancholy “Slow Burn”, the toilet-circuit road movie soundtrack “Face For Radio” was introduced as “a Raze*Rebuild song,” some wag down the front (OK, me…) commenting that it was on their Coasters EP, Si then quipping, “we changed our name [to Raze*Rebuild] as we got requests for “Yakity Yak”!”

 


I’ve always said one sign of a great song is the performer’s ability to deliver it “live” in radically different ways; that being the case, Si and Matt write great songs. Full stop. The formerly galloping rocker “Troubled Minds” turned into a deliciously austere self-examination, while the multiple tumbling hooks of a later “Back To The Fall”, my favourite Raze number, would sound great in any setting, and even a slight middle-8 miscue from Matt (causing Si to come back with the subsequent amended hook of, “Matthew Hall, Matthew Hall…”!) didn’t detract from its excellence for me. In between, newie “Keep Distracted” lamented a partner’s absence abroad, and the atmospheric “You’re The Chalk” saw Si give his voice full beans (possibly a little too many!); then the galloping hoedown closer “Audiobook” again reflected a journey from youthful punk rock indignation to middle (r)age cynicism (and featuring the brilliant line, “can I smash the system while seated – and in comfortable shoes?”), rounding off another fine set.

 Quick chat with the boys afterwards (Si reckoning they were just “OK” tonight, but what does he know – he never watches his own gigs!) and a lengthier discourse with Ed about the importance of continuing to attend events in these troubled and financially pressured times, before I threw a fiver in the tip jar and headed home. As I mentioned, I’m glad the scheduled performer is alright, but even happier for their absence tonight, and another chance to catch up with, and be entertained by, this talented duo!

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

1,238 DEAN WAREHAM, Ryder The Eagle, Bristol Fleece, Monday 25th July 2022

 


A gig over 2 ½ years in the waiting, this... the last of my pre-Covid booked gigs to actually take place, I booked tix for this one in December 2019, only for various lockdowns either side of the pond to delay the tour 4 times overall (although it seemed more!). Either way, it’s finally here; former Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman Dean Wareham, delivering a rendition of his first band's seminal 1989 sophomore album “On Fire” to celebrate its 30th (well, 32nd now!) anniversary. A serious precursor for the early 90’s shoegaze scene, this, with dreamy and droney material taking a slight cue from the Velvet Underground but otherwise sounding unlike anything else of its era, I picked up on it as part of my late 80’s Boston-area musical voyage of discovery - Pixies, Muses, Dinos, Tom, Dipper... heck, even Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic found their way onto my radar back then! Only got to see G500 the once (November 1990, gig 178 - missed them a couple of times before that) and honestly they weren’t all that, but I subsequently enjoyed my Luna shows (gigs 269 and 294) better, so happy to give Dean and this album another chance!

 Old friend Beef joined us too - disgracefully, this was the first time I’d seen him since before lockdown! What happens with a friendship predicated on going to gigs, I guess... anyway, much catching up ensued during a swift drive to Brizzle, thence parking up just round the corner of The Fleece and chatting outside before 7.30 doors. Got the drinks in inside, running into “Shiiine On” buddy Matt and finally meeting Martin, our erstwhile 4th “Shiiiner” for this year! Support Ryder The Eagle was bloody awful - a young bullfighter-clad bloke singing moody dirges to backing tapes? Nope nope and thrice nope, so Beef and I scuttled back outside, being joined later by Matt, who advised Ryder had since hopped offstage, gone round the crowd singing in people’s faces and was currently rolling on the floor, stripped to the waist...

 Joined the muso throng back inside and stood by the bar, 2/3rds back - no need for front row spots for this one, given the atmospheric mellow melancholy of the “On Fire” material... Sure enough, Dean led his 4-piece band onstage to little fanfare, easing into a few choice cuts from his current album “I Have Nothing To Say To The Mayor of LA”, which veered between slow-burn atmospherics (“As Much As It Was Worth”) and more upbeat yet still languid grooves a la early Luna (opener “Corridors” and the catchy “Cashing In”, which featured the delicious line, “every fuck was a flying fuck”!). Again, with little fanfare, “Blue Thunder” then heralded the “On Fire” rendition, Dean lifting his vocals through numerous octaves to hit the mainly falsetto notes required by this dreamy yet discordant material - largely successfully!

 On my only Galaxie 500 “live” experience, I felt their performance veered too much towards jarring noise, even finding a few “On Fire” numbers a little too much during recent revision listens in the car... tonight, however, Dean and crew balanced that off-kilter discordancy skilfully with delicate dreamy atmospherics, providing a heady and beguiling mix. “Snowstorm” was a hushed and fragile delight, building to a meandering wah-wah guitar riff, and “Another Day”, sung by guitarist Britta (more on her later) was a 60's influenced psychedelic San Fran drug den drone with a baroque, almost Jefferson Airplane chorus! “Leave The Planet” featured some thrilling Byrds-ian backwards psych-guitar riffery and Mo Tucker-esque tub thumping, overlaid by Dean’s own slightly misbehaving mouth organ clarion blare, whilst “Isn't It A Pity” was a touching, air-clearing ballad to close out a surprisingly fine set.

 


A couple of encores, including the tumbling, undulating “Flowers”, the slow-build to crescendo of my favourite G500 number “Tug Boat” and a Red Crayola cover, “Victory Garden”, which required a break midway through thanks to some nasty feedback, rounded off a splendid performance. Swiped a mixing desk list (hooray!) and got it signed by an affable, masked-up Dean and his merch-stand bound wife and band guitarist Britta. Ah yes,Britta... Britta Phillips (for t’was she) was the lead singer of excellent early 90's US shoegazers The Belltower, hosts of my landmark gig no. 200 in November 1991 and a couple of other performances back then, including a Friday Big Tent set at my first Reading Festival in 1991, which I attended at the expense of the mainstage debut of a then-unknown band called (ahem) Nirvana... I shared said story with Britta before farewells to Matt and Martin and a swift drive home, Britta being just amazed that anyone still remembered The Belltower! A surreal way to end a better than anticipated gig 2 ½ years in the waiting!


Tuesday, 19 July 2022

1,237 FRANCIS OF DELIRIUM, Supp. Briston Maroney, Bristol Exchange, Monday 18th July 2022

 


The hottest day in the UK in my lifetime, and I’m spending the evening in a tiny and sweaty venue supporting the support… it’s either dedication to the rock’n’roll cause, or total insanity; you decide!

 Either way, this one was an eagerly anticipated one from Luxembourg (!) newcomers Francis Of Delirium, whom I’d discovered on that old reliable “New Music For Old Punks” facebook page last year, finding them a heady mixture of smooth, swirling dreampop, widescreen epic indie and down and dirty grungy riffery, with “Lakes”, their finest number, strongly recalling the excellent Madder Rose’s classic “Car Song” and comfortably making it onto my “Best of 2021” CD compo. An odd combination too, with the core duo consisting of Jana, a young female vocalist/ guitarist and her partner-in-crime Chris, a veteran player much (much!) closer to my age! I’d just missed their tour support with Coach Party last year (now, that’d be a great combination) plus a June support tour taking in Bristol, but was happy to snap up tix for this one, in support of Briston Maroney, a name fairly unfamiliar to me. There for the support, then!

 Fully hydrated, I set off down a baking M4 with the aircon on full, stopping at the services to cool the car down and only putting my own tshirt on when I parked opposite the venue! Grabbed a well-needed drink and chilled (in this heat? Ha!) outside while the Briston Maroney massive, mainly consisting of young student girls, filed in. So I followed suit and grabbed a front row spot, house left, promising my front row companions I would relinquish it after FoD were done. A baggy black-clad Jana led the 3-piece band on promptly at 8 (no Chris – I discovered later he doesn’t tour due to family reasons; fair enough!) and straight into the hushed intro to “Lakes”, then hitting the off-kilter, angular rhythm riff… and hitting it hard! It was obvious therefore from the outset that this “live” Francis Of Delirium iteration were here to rock, and they proceeded to tear the Exchange a new one with a potent, powerful and fiercely determined display, taking their cue from Jana herself. “Red”, next up, featured some fierce riffery from Jana, underpinning the looped “all makes sense” hook, and the excellent “Funhouse” clattered along propelled by an almost Bauhaus “Dark Entries” drumbeat. “Are you all excited to see Briston?” asked Jana – nope, I’m here for you guys!

 


A droney, stream-of-consciousness “Let It All Go” ceded into the stately, slow-burn dark and dirty dirge of “Losing”, which recalled Manchester Orchestra (!), before my set highlight, the stark, confessional lyricism and jagged Seafood-esque quiet-loud dynamics of “Ashamed”, which was quite brilliant, a quantum leap ahead of the considerably more muted recorded version. The Pixies-ish build to the terrace chant hook of set closer “Quit Fucking Around” was preceded by Jana asking for some audience participation for said hook; I think we got 6 out of 10 for enthusiasm but only 4 “because they can’t sing”! Whatever, Francis Of Delirium scored a perfect 10 for me for fierce, clear-eyed conviction, and delivery of a quite stunning set.

 


Grabbed my breath and left the front rows to the Briston massive after Jana had kindly handed me the sole list, then I grabbed signatures from the affable Luxembourgish rhythm section, unloading afterwards, plus a longer chat with the merch stand-bound Vancouver expat Jana. Zac, a blond chap who took our pic, complimented my rocking out down the front; I replied, “I’m only here for them – I’ve not even heard of Briston Maroney”, to which he retorted, “me neither, but I am in his band…!” Oops!

 Egged on by Zac and Jana, I took a watching brief at the back for Briston. I had actually checked out brief bits on YouTube, and as expected he initially dove in with a Pixies-ish “Wave Of Mutilation”-like chunky rocker “Bottle Rocket”, to a barrage of screams from his young female massive – no surprise really, he’s quite a handsome chap in a young psych-slacker Evan Dando way, I guess… Subsequent numbers variously recalled the chunky powerpop of early Ben Kweller/ Ben Lee, or blander 70’s druggy late night Venice Beach campfire swayalong balladry, but either way I wasn’t feeling the vibe overall, so after ½ hour I said my farewells to the FoD folks and left for a more comfortable drive home, back by 10.30. On another night I’d probably have enjoyed him more, but, similarly to The Slow Readers Club following Desperate Journalist at the Thekla in 2017 (gig 1,063), tonight wasn’t his night. Like them, he’d already been blown off stage for me by his support before even taking to it…! Nope, tonight was Francis Of Delirium’s night, a searingly hot set on a searingly hot night!

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

1,236 THE STAYAWAKES, Swindon Lydiard Park “Cheese and Chilli Festival”, Saturday 2nd July 2022

 


The third gig in barely a couple of months for me with these South Coast surf power-pop (beach?) boys The Stayawakes as hosts, and, improbably, this one’s a home tie…! The lads recently announced a 3-date early Summer tour, of which last Friday’s jaunt down to Southampton’s splendid Hobbit (gig 1,234) was the first, a midweek date at Camden’s legendary Britpop watering hole The Good Mixer the second, and an appearance as musical entertainment at Swindon Lydiard Park’s Cheese and Chilli Festival the third! Say whaaaaat!!! I nearly fell off my chair when I saw this; after trekking down to their neck of the woods to see them lay waste to a sleepy Arts Centre in deepest darkest Hampshire, now I’d get to rock along to their irresistibly hooky powerpop harmonies in my own back yard? Thanks, I do!

 I’d quizzed them last Friday about this one; a 6 p.m. half hour slot to close Fest Day 1, so Logan and I planned to cycle over to save on car parking costs. However, the impending drizzle finally arrived early afternoon, threatening to throw a quite literal dampener on our plans. Luckily there was a brief break in the clouds about 3-ish so we headed over then, locking bikes up by the cafĂ© and wandering the wrong way around the fenced-off Festival site. D’oh! Stayawakes drummer Steven, who’d just parked his car around the back, joined us as we headed in, weaving our way through a maze of virtually deserted stalls selling all sorts of mainly chilli merch (including sauces ranging from hot to flaming mad bastard!), to the also quiet eaterie and beer tent-flanked main performance area in the corner. Clearly the weather had put a lot of folks off attending today… Nonetheless, we caught up with the boys plus their entourage – they’d brought their families along, hoping for a nice picnic afternoon in the grounds of Lydiard House, but the weather had let us all down. Enjoyed a chat with Steven’s dad anyway, plus a catch-up with Jimmy and Pete punctuated by our having to scuttle for cover thanks to a particularly nasty dark cloud opening its contents on us!

 The hardy souls that had toughed it out were then “treated” to a chilli eating competition, as 10 reckless individuals suffered through rounds of ingesting various evilly named chillies measuring several hundreds of thousands on the heat scale, a couple even throwing up in the process. Yuck! Luckily things were cleared up, and even luckier a seam of white sky appeared between two dark foreboding clouds, rendering it soggy yet rain-free for The Stayawakes, who kicked off early at 5.15ish with the rolling drums of “Wendi”. That strident drumbeat aside, this initially lacked its usual fiery launch, with Andrew late into the initial vocal line, but then didn’t lose much time building up to its’ usual escape velocity. And actually, for once, the sound was pretty decent as well… whilst the sound systems for their other 2 gigs have struggled to cope with The Stayawakes’ rampant volume assault from the off, this one, despite basically being a couple of speakers in a field serving a temporary open fronted (and backed) gazebo stage set-up, sounded pretty well balanced with no instrument dominating any other. In fact, the only sound issue was with the Stayawakes’ penchant for swapping lead vocalists between numbers, the soundman making multiple trips to the front with his laptop to turn up various mics! And of course, the boys, once again in their matching pink polka shirts, gave it their energetic all, ricocheting around the stage like pastel pink balls in a pinball machine.

 


An early “Please Steve Just Drive” was dedicated to The Hart Foundation, the boys showing an impressive knowledge of vintage WWE (WWF?) by listing obscure members; then there were the cheese puns… they’d prepared caerphilly (groan) for the Fest with a selection of (quite literally) cheesy quips, Andrew’s comment of, “catch our set on the Brie Brie C i-Player,” being probably the best of a bad bunch! But the rock, as ever, rocked… an infectiously hooky mid-set “Pink Wave” was my set highlight this time, although the descending riffery of “Inevitable Truth” (“our ode to Bob Mould,” as Andrew called it) ran it close. “Lovestruck” as ever was a fist-pumping singalong, and the 2 oldies, the Gigolo Aunts’ “Mrs. Washington”-alike “Jake” and headlong hurtling finale “Little Explorer” rounded off a set, wherein The Stayawakes happily brought a bit of South Coast sunshine to a soggy Swindon field.

Si (who’d turned up with Kathryn midway through the chilli eating contest) renewed acquaintances with Jimmy before they headed off; then we hung around awhile as the Festival literally closed around us (!) before cycling back home after effusive thanks and farewells, home for kebab tea. So the Festival itself might have been a damp squib (Day 1, at least...), but nonetheless there were musical fireworks, thanks to The Stayawakes!

Sunday, 26 June 2022

1,235 SOCCER MOMMY, Bristol Rough Trade Records, Sunday 26th June 2022

 


Another Rough Trade in-store gig and CD signing session, but this time with daughter Jami! I’d enjoyed “Color Theory”, 2020’s sophomore effort from Nashville’s Soccer Mommy, effectively a band vehicle for talented newcomer Sophie Allison to sprinkle a flurry of hazy lazy Belly/ Blake Babies college pop/dreampop stardust over her self-exploring confessional lyrics, then deliver them in a pure, delicate voice recalling Madder Rose’s Mary Lorson. So her impending new album “Sometimes, Forever” was already on my shopping list before I heard about this in-store show. Tix were duly snapped up, then, not only for myself but also for Jami, who enjoyed the repeated car CD plays. So, another daddy/ daughter gig!

 Rach was off early for a sea swim event so I still had to do the grocery shop first, but I did that in double-quick time so Jami and I could leave just after 11 for a swift drive and annoying queue into Cabot Circus car park, then a soggy tramp through a drizzly Bristol. Hit the venue about 20 past 12, picking up our new album CDs then taking a spot near the front, house right, and admiring the plethora of guitars onstage – no other equipment, so this was definitely a Sophie solo show! She joined us at 1 p.m., greeting her quietly attentive audience with, “hi guys… what is it you say; are you alright?... Now I’ve warmed you up with my humour, I’ll play some songs” and easing into the Madder Rose-esque sombre slow-burn opener “With You” off the new album. In fact, after then making reference to her guitar line-up (“an arsenal of guitars for a 30 minute set! And they’re all in [the key of] “A”!”), she announced that the set would consist solely of new album tracks – her prerogative, sure, but as an audience member, it was also my prerogative to feel a little disappointed by that, as I was looking forward to at least a couple of “Color Theory” tracks (“Circle The Drain” and/or Jami’s favourite “Royal Screw Up” would have been nice). Oh well…

 


Anyway, “Bones”, next up, had more of a slightly countrified Lemonheads slacker vibe, and “Shotgun” was more immediate, with a hooker chorus juxtaposing its’ melancholy verse. Following that, Sophie (who was open and charming throughout) asked for early favourites from the new album, a couple of punters calling for “Darkness Forever”, much to her chagrin… apparently this one was “too dark” and featured a really loud scream that the producer coaxed out of her during recording. So that was out too! Instead, she reached for the best-looking guitar, a sky blue asymmetric model which drew gasps from the crowd and a comment of, “it’s not mine, it’s [Soccer Mommy guitarist] Julian’s!” “Don’t Ask Me”, which received the benefit of this instrument, was my favourite of the set, again giving off strong Dandoesque laid-back college pop vibes. We made our way to the back during final number, the understated melancholy of “Still” (which also featured a descending choral chord structure recalling Buffalo Tom’s classic “Taillights Fade”), so we could be early in the queue for CD signing, greeting Sophie for a few quick words, signed CDs and a photo before heading off, back home just before 4 via shopping and Slim Chickens lunch in Cabot Circus.

 So, overall, a pleasant and diverting way to spend a Sunday, but one not likely to threaten my “Best Of” gig list for the year… disappointed about the lack of familiar material in her set, but a couple of promising new numbers, especially “Don’t Ask Me” which I’m looking forward to hearing in full band form. But of course, the track I’m looking forward to hearing the most (forbidden fruit and all that..) is the dark and screaming “Darkness Forever”…!

1,234 THE STAYAWAKES, Supp. Everyone Lies, Stankfinger, Southampton The Hobbit, Friday 24th June 2022

 


Happy Birthday to me! And what better way to celebrate another trip around the sun than a gig, although not the initially intended one… Nope, this was actually scheduled to be a “Boys Weekend” down the South Coast with Logan, seeing 80’s art school punk/ New Romantic legend Adam Ant at Brighton Centre, then an overnight stop at a friend’s house and a shopping Saturday in Brighton, but unfortunately Adam tested positive for Covid so he postponed this one. Bah! Nonetheless, Plan B then came into operation in the shape of this, the first date in a triad of shows by recent Southsea powerpop favourites The Stayawakes, a triple-threat which, improbably, includes headlining next Saturday’s Cheese and Chilli festival at Lydiard Park in… Swindon! Yowsers! Still, not willing just to settle for that one, I was up for a birthday jaunt to the South Coast; on my own this time, Logan deciding to sit this one out (“The Stayawakes? Aren’t they playing in Swindon next weekend? Well… they’re playing in Swindon next weekend!”)

 Took Logan karting this afternoon for an impromptu replacement birthday event to celebrate his own 15th, 2 days ago, then dropped him home just after 6, got changed then hammered down the inclement A34/M3 beat route to Soton, parking around the corner from this old school pub venue just after 7.30. Got “carded” on the way in for the first time in 30 years (a crime prevention thing, rather than being due to my youthful looks!) before heading downstairs, expecting to find a small subterranean room… wrong! The staircase took us past the venue room on the left (where The Stayawakes were soundchecking), then opened up into rock pub Narnia, with a tiered drinking balcony overlooking a wide open-air courtyard and wooden gazebo. Nice! Very “indie” as well, underlined both by the soundtrack (Bowling For Soup in particular on heavy rotation) and the clientele, one punter complimenting my new “birthday” green Tuk creeper sneakers, after I’d done likewise to his blue tartan trews! Met Dave, an old friend of The Stayawakes’ Jimmy who’d read my blog review of their recent Fareham gig (gig 1,224), and we compared notes before being joined by The Stayawakes for birthday drinkies and rock chat, the boys being happy to see me and not at all fazed about being “sloppy seconds” to Adam Ant (As bassist Jimmy noted, “we’re probably not the first [to be]!”).

 Before too long it rolled up to 8.30, so we funnelled into the small venue room (completely neglecting to pay the £2 cover. Whoops!) where the guys set up and donned the ubiquitous matching pink polka dot shirts. In a hurry to crack on through their packed set-list, Steven launched the set into life via the thunderous rolling drum opening of “Wendi”. Unfortunately, that was initially pretty much all I heard… Steven being such a hard hitter, and the room being so small and fairly sparely populated (probably about a dozen hardy punters venturing in) the mix was submerged by the drum sound for the opening couple of numbers, but thankfully, by the excellent, snaking “Please Steve Just Drive” it had settled to the point of the drums dominating rather than completely overpowering the mix. The Stayawakes, as ever, manfully powered through, taking this and other issues (Andrew breaking a string on his sole guitar and needing to borrow Everyone Lies vocalist’s instrument!) with good humour, Andrew remarking, “we’ve not played [The Hobbit] before… drunk here plenty of times…!” I powered through as well, rocking out from my stage front, house right spot as much as the now 57-year old knees allowed!

 


“Pink Wave” was superb, Peter’s undulating riffery finally rising above the dominant drums, then Andrew wished me a happy birthday (nice!) before the more sombre Pixies-ish march of “Stepping Over Cracks”. A racey, rocky “Cologne” was poignantly dedicated to a late former booker of the band, Peter unfortunately “twatting” Jimmy on the head with his guitar during the middle 8… The brooding, Hi-Fi like flippancy of “Back In 95” was probably my highlight tonight, the subsequent effervescent hooky brilliance of “Lovestruck” inevitably running it close. “It’s Cool, It’s Rad” concluded a set again initially beset with mix issues but again replete with The Stayawakes’ trademarks of verve, energy and upbeat enthusiasm. One day I’ll hear them play a venue with the sound pindrop-perfect from the off… now that’d be something…!

 I grabbed a balcony bench afterwards, the boys joining us after packing away, for more rock (and other stuff!) chat, drinks and rounds of superb home-cooked pizzas. Amongst other things, much comparing of rock’n’roll histories ensued, as I once again found much common ground with a splendid bunch of fellows who clearly relish being in a band together (Jimmy in particular eulogising about their shared musical bond). We ended up chatting over Stankfinger’s set, which veered between formulaic pop-punk and shouty noise (what little I remember of it, anyway!), but we all wandered back in to catch tonight’s headliners Everyone Lies. Openers at that Fareham gig, they again kicked off with some fast-paced Oi! Punk, but by now my knees were suffering from both the karting and rocking out to The Stayawakes, and, in danger of seizing up completely, I bade my farewells and headed off to the motor for a more circumspect drive back up to the ‘don, hitting home, somewhat wiped out, just after midnight. So, not the planned Antmusic gig and Brighton weekend, but Plan B still worked out splendidly, thanks to The Stayawakes!

Saturday, 18 June 2022

1,233 SI AND MATT HALL, Julesbury, Swindon The Beehive, Thursday 16th June 2022

 


My gig companions of Sunday’s Gregor Barnett show (gig. 1,231) now become my hosts for this one! An infrequent “live” outing these days for Si and Matt Hall, the former driving forces behind my favourite Swindon band since XTC, the glorious blue-collar popcore/ alt-rock noise that was Raze*Rebuild. Si’s happily in a new relationship now, but also suffering from lactic acid build-up in his hands, affecting his guitar grip (old age, it doesn’t come alone…!). Nonetheless, he promised to tough it out for an intended full hour acoustic performance up at the Beehive, where I last saw the boys play on an emotionally fraught Swindon Shuffle final day (gig 1,190), after visiting my now happily fully recovered brother in ICU.

 Logan fancied it too, and after permission was sought and granted for his attendance in this pub venue (thanks Jase!), we drove over after his Thursday swim session, parking behind the cinema and wandering up the increasingly steep hill for 8.30, greeting Mr. Dust, loitering outside. Things were running late so we popped inside for a drink and to catch opening duet Julesbury, a female singer/ guitarist (presumably Jules!) and her partner, who turned out to be Logan’s old guitar teacher James! Their set was very hushed, introspective and traditionally folky, sounding almost baroque and medieval at times, as if they were playing madrigals and not songs! “Jack Daniels” (“a romance song, not an ode to Jack”! insisted Jules) and “Brave Man” (a darker, more reflective octave shredder dedicated to her dad) were notable numbers in a loop pedal-augmented, highly proficiently played if slightly overlong set. Okay, but not my stuff really.

 We grabbed refills and pork scratchings (!) and bagsied a couple of stools in front of the “stage” for the Hall brothers’ set. “Let me know if it’s too loud,” requested Si, “it’s not supposed to be endurance gigging!” Easing into their mammoth 15-song set with “Rhythm and Rhyme”, Si concentrated on the rhythm parts with his new guitar (“it looks like an electric but plays like an acoustic – it’s blowing my mind!” he commented later) and sensibly let Matt display his talents with his undulating, intricate riffery on his self-made instrument. Good thing too, as even by the second number “Face For Radio” (tongue-in-cheek dedicated to his brother!), Si was shaking his hand during and between numbers to alleviate his issues, continuing to do so throughout. Nonetheless, he and Matt soldiered on manfully; good on ‘em!

 


The slow burner “Kat I’m Sorry” saw Si, trying to keep restrained due to the intimate nature of the setting, nonetheless give full rein to his usual stentorian roar in the strident, Buffalo Tom-esque chorus; as he later said, you can take the boy out of the punk band, but…! A couple of more alt-countrified newies (including “Slow Burn”, a grungy ballad which could have walked off da Tom’s “Smitten” album) led into a cover; not an “incongruous” one, this time, but a totally apposite and well delivered reading of The Waterboys’ sweeping 80’s classic “Fisherman’s Blues”. A bit of “swirly” from Matt augmented the hushed atmospherics of “You’re The Chalk”, whilst a clutch of old amped-up sweat-inducing Raze favourites in “New Leaf” and “Troubled Minds” retained their trademark gallop, even in this acoustic setting, Si still working up a sweat for his art and commenting, “If we ever do merch it’ll be wellies!”

 Logan and I had my favourite “Back To The Fall” dedicated to us; then “Audiobook”, a rocky, racey hoedown dealing with the transition from extended punk rock adolescence into “middle rage” (as a number of Si’s songs do), rounded off a gem of a set from these 2 talented brothers. Compliments then a quick departure (it is a school night, after all!), following this infrequent but enjoyable showing. Nice one boys!