Thetford Forest gigs rock. Zero hassle. Turn up. Park the car. Take note of car park name (Rabbit). Walk 5 minutes. Say hello to the cheery volunteers. Nip to the toilet (clean port-a-loos). Wander to the front of the the arena. No pushing. No groans. No annoying stares. Why? Everyone is already where they want to be. Most are in place with smug looks on their faces sitting in deckchairs with picnics out, waterproofs on (5% chance of rain) and are happy as Larry. Donington this is not but it certainly is bloody well organised.
This 'Covered in Glory' gig celebrated 40 years of Ireland's Hot Press magazine (more than just a music mag). Turns out the venue, the 400 capacity Nell's Jazz and Blues in London's West Kensington, is a bit of a hidden gem. The signs on the wall say 'shhh...during the performance'. That is good to see as too often smaller venues with a big bar are full of noisy folk not looking in the direction of the stage. It's not too bad here though, a nice venue with great staff and an attentive crowd.
A slightly different take on what turned out to be a great gig at the House of Vans...
Tunnel 3 tonight not 2. 850 people. Aim to get in about 8.30, loads of time, they wont be on until 9 after all. Yay wrist bands, feeling pretty smug. What's that you say? Free ticket no guarantee of entry...didn't know that. Oh wow hang on, we can't get in? Too full you say? Why the fuck is that? We got tickets, hell we got wrist bands. No one telling us what is going on. Will we get in? Shall we leave? Yes let's leave. Ah no hang on Ella looks upset.
Festival crowds can be the worst. People drinking all day, too pissed to watch any of the bands on display, barging into everyone around them, spilling drink on those sat down as they stumble by. The joys. At least the sun was shining (although thunder and lightning were on show in the distant sky) and Oxford looked its magnificent best.
I had almost forgotten how much I hate stadium crowds. Thankfully tonight was there to remind me in full...an A-Z of things that annoy me at gigs...you may want to take a deep breath: Pissed teenagers, pissed 'this is my only night out this year' 50 somethings, pissed pensioners angrily admonishing anyone near them, the very strong smell of joints, twenty somethings pissing in plastic cups, loud Argentinians, girls getting on shoulders of every guy directly in front of me and the general feeling that half the crowd had never been to a concert in their lives.
Toby Jepson is a bit of a hero of mine. Fronting the Little Angels back in the late 80s and early 90s coincided with a burgeoning love of rock music for the 16 year old me. The group originated from Scarborough meaning they were a local band just up the road from my home town of Hull. That made them all the more exciting. Local lads doing what we all dreamt of.
I'd always meant to get to one of the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts (the first one being way back in 2000) but for some reason never did. That is not to say I have never been at the Albert Hall. Back during the 6 months or so when I was reasonably cool (sometime in the the mid 90's) I saw the Little Angels and Eric Clapton here (although in truth it is harder to not see Mr Clapton at this venue). Those two shows seem like a lifetime ago although I did have afternoon tea here with my lovely wife a few years back...not very rock n roll admittedly.
Tonight started a little oddly...however, what initially promised to be a rather strange and cold evening, ended up being a reminder of what an excellent performer Mark Shaw is. Why strange? Well the venue may be full of character and music history (Dylan played London for the first time at this very place) but with the stage in the corner at a right angle (splitting the venue in two) and with the crowd dynamic a little unusual, it really did feel that like this was going to be an odd one.
I’m a big Queen fan. Have been since I was a little kid. Growing up the house was always filled with Freddie's voice whether it was played by my elder brothers or parents. Queen always did appeal to a wide range of age groups and the makeup of tonight's crowd showed that was still very much the case. Indeed men and women of all ages where here at London's Wembley Arena. The band's music has meant so much to me over the years and seeing May and Taylor live is always a thrill. Now they sing with an American Idol runner up.
You get a feeling a concert is not going to be anywhere near full when you can wander in and hardly anyone bothers asking you for your tickets. We pretty much walked straight in. Ok so we got to the venue over an hour before T'Pau were due to stage but to say the turnout was low is a massive understatement. Why there were so few people is mystifying as the crowd that were here were lucky enough to see a band, in particular Carol Decker and Ron Rogers, put on a trip down memory lane in the fab Islington Assembly Hall.
Before this gig, I knew very little about H.E.A.T. I was dragged along by a big fan of the band...that can be really awkward...what if I think the band are utter garbage...do I say so? Things could get a little icy. I really should not have worried as it turns out the band know how to put on one hell of a show. Musically brilliant and with a front man who gives his all. Throw in it being the last night of the tour and the Academy really was rocking.
Gig 300 for me. Love Blondie. Love Debbie Harry. Love London. Love Brixton and love Brixton Academy. All the music Gods came together to help me celebrate my third century in style. I've always loved live performance of any kind and since going to my first gig in 1989, on a cold December night in Birmingham, I have loved live music. Of the 300 some have been poor, some have been ok, some good and some absolutely magnificent...300 goes firmly in the latter category.
Standing, freezing cold, in Trafalgar Square on a Saturday night drinking £5 bottles of Fosters is not normally my idea of fun. However tonight, for 45 minutes we saw a set of old and new songs from one of the world's biggest bands. Here as part of the build up for the MTV EMAs (first time in London since 1996) the band play on a stage with Nelsons column overlooking.
It's 29 years since Cult of Personality blasted on to MTV screens. Earning Living Colour a Grammy and multiple MTV awards the song was a huge success and put the band firmly in the spotlight. They were a welcome change from much of the usual MTV fare at the time which, in the late 80's seemed to show just ten videos on repeat....and eight of those were Phil Collins (actually I just checked and that's a complete lie...would love to see these on MTV now).
The Struts attract a variety of fans, from Little Mix loving teenage girls (bass player Jed Edwards is the boyfriend of a Little Mixer), to ageing rockers (with an alarming variety of hair styles). Noticeably though the Derby band's crowd seems to be gradually turning into a more typical rock audience. This may, in part, be due to the ever growing American support slots with the likes of the Foo Fighters, Motley Crue, The Who and The Stones.
Some 20 years ago the Stereophonics played the ULU. Two decades later they were back celebrating the anniversary of their debut album, released this very day in 1997. Word Gets Around being 20 years old is pretty scary. So much has happened to the band since its release. The success they have had has been one of consistency with huge highs (2002 at Slane Castle) and occasional gut wrench lows (the untimely death of former drummer Stuart Cable).
Tonight was always gonna be way too cool for me. Two up and coming artists in an ultra trendy venue...surely I would be spotted early and weeded out by the security? Luckily I had my far cooler wife with me as protection.
Haven't been in church in a while...even after living in Ireland for 12 years I managed to go with the exception of a few funerals. £8 to go an see Paul and Jacqui sing a few songs though. Why the hell not. Ok so it was only a 50 minute show but to hear them sing acoustically in a church was something we couldn't pass up.
Do you remember Mott the Hoople? I thought everyone did, however in the lead up to this show anybody I mentioned it to had no idea who they or Ian Hunter was. Crazy right? Admittedly the people I talked to were not 43 year old wannabe rockers like myself...but still. How can you not know?
There are some bands that mean more than others. Both globally and personally. For me Guns were one of the most exciting bands on the planet. I saw them a number times in the early '90s when I first discovered there were bands other than Queen (my first and biggest love). Nothing has come close to the feeling of anticipation I felt back in the day when waiting for a GNR gig. They lived breathed rock n roll. They WERE rock n roll.
Who I Saw: Aerosmith / Alter Bridge / Steel Panther / Airbourne / In Flames
Sunday is normally my day. Pretty much classic rock all the way. That of course meant an earlier start. Despite this I wasn't early enough to see the Dead Daisies who were on at the ridiculous time of 12.30. Love their albums but hey I need my sleep. I did though manage to make it to the site around 14.30 with a few delays on bag checking slowing my entrance (although only for a short while. Again the security were excellent all
Who I Saw: Biffy Clyro / Wednesday 13 / Sick Puppies / The LaFontaines
Day two and the festival really kicks into gear. Staying in a hotel this year helps (camping is for wimps as we all know). The Holiday Inn near Derby train station may not sound glamorous but it is really ideal for travel with a fantastic shuttle bus service taking you to and from the site.
Who I Saw: System Of A Down / Prophets of Rage / Suicidal Tendencies
You would think the times we live in would make people feel like hiding away but the spirit shown this weekend at Download was truly heart warming. Yes there may have been more bag checks, longer queues (but really not bad at all) and more security including armed police
It seems silly to post this in the light of the days tragic events...but London keeps on rolling. Nothing will stop it. Fuck everyone that tries. Camden Town is such a vibrant place, although understandably a little more sombre than usual tonight. In the middle of Camden, surrounded by pubs and tattooists, is the Electric Ballroom. It was packed and defiant. Life really does go on.
I like a lot of music styles. At least I think I do. Then again most people that say they have an eclectic taste in music...really don't. The gigs I go to usually involve loud guitars and over long drum solos. Ladyhawke (Pip Brown) definitely doesn't fit into that category. She ain't no Whitesnake. There are similarities though. Both have dodgy hairstyles and wear clothes that were stylish in 1976.
The recent Top of the Pops repeats on BBC 4 have made me hungry for all things early 1980s...and there is no one that sums up that period better than Adam Ant. 35 years ago he was the man that everyone wanted to see, then in the fickle world of '80s music no one seemed to care. Thankfully, judging by the huge successes of recent tours, he is back with a bang.
Seven months on from the original cancelled date we were back in Nottingham to see James, a band I may have seen once or twice before (actually the tenth time in total and fourth time this year. I like this band).
I won't lie...I got these tickets for free. I'd never heard of any of the groups playing...yet this was three up and coming bands, a venue I had never been to before and a Friday night. Why the hell not? First up were Manchester based band, Mohawk Radio. Lead singer Mia Page (from Bermuda no less) is the focal point with a powerful rock voice and excellent stage presence...
Little Steven (or Stevie Van Zandt to his friends) announced his first gig in 27 years a month ago. Tickets bought. Queue queued. Position found. You may or may not know much of Stevie's solo output. To say he has been round the block in music terms is an understatement. The E Street Band, Southside Johnny, Gary U.S Bonds and of course his solo work...also lets not forget this guy.