Tag Archives: Boom Boom Club

143. LAURENCE JONES BAND (+THE HEATERS) at THE NEW CRAWDADDY BLUES CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Friday, 20th January, 2017.

LJ at the NCBC (Photo: Karen R)

LJ at the NCBC (Photo: Karen R)

My first visit to the New Crawdaddy Blues Club of 2017 was a good one to be sure: it was the superb Laurence Jones Band, with support from house band, The Heaters. I’ve seen LJ a few times before – as an impressive 21 year-old jamming with his mentor Walter Trout (May 2013. Just before I started my website); then supporting Coco Montoya (May 2014. See my review #14); and supporting – and jamming with – Otis Grand (November 2014. See my review #30), He had noticeably improved in ability and confidence each time. So having not seen him for over two years, my son James and I were wondering if we’d notice any changes this time. We were to see….

But first on stage was the club’s house band, The Heaters. I’ve seen them many times before, but they never fail to impress with songs from their vast repertoire of covers – some of which I hadn’t heard them play before. On this occasion they played such favourites as ‘Hideaway’; ‘I’m Tore Down’; ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘All Your Love’. But the highlight of their set was a fine rendition of Greeny’s ‘Fool No More’ featuring lead guitarist Chris Campbell. Excellent.

And so to the headline act. As the LJB climbed on stage, the first noticeable change was that band were completely different yet again. They now consist of Laurence himself of course on guitar and vocals; Phil Wilson on drums; and making his first appearance with the band, bassist Greg Smith. The LJB also now have a keyboard player in the shape of Bennett Holland. No longer being a three-piece opens up a lot more scope musically. This was the band’s first gig of 2017; and it was certainly a good start to the year.

(Photo: Karen R)

(Photo: Karen R)

The band immediately launched into the title track of the new album Take Me High. It was clear from the off that this new line-up were tight and confident together. A variety of Blues/Blues-based numbers followed, all on the Rock edge of the Blues spectrum, and all in LJ’s inimitable style. These were mainly songs from the last two albums, plus a couple from Temptation including ‘Soul Swamp River’; and a fine electric cover of the old Lead Belly tune ‘Good Morning Blues’ – nice use of wah-wah on this one. A good cover of ‘Cocaine’ was played too, with of course plenty of audience participation.

Highlights of the show for me were: the radio friendly single from the new album, ‘I Will’ (which I thought had a bit of a ‘Watchtower’ vibe about it). Also the Rock’n’Roller ‘Stop Moving The House’; and the obligatory slow number ‘Thunder In The Sky’ (apparently the first song that LJ ever wrote) – to which a couple of lovely ladies in black performed a cheeky dance – and why not? (I should have filmed it!) There was also a tasty bit of duelling between LJ and keys man Bennett on ‘You Wind Me Up’ too. Encore was demanded and delivered in the form of ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’ and ‘My Eyes Get In Me Trouble’.

(Photo: Karen R)

(Photo: Karen R)

Laurence and the boys are a fine young band, and I think they have a great deal more to offer over the coming years. The Blues genre needs young bands like this; and I noticed there were some younger people in the audience too – that can only be a good thing. If you like guitar-based Blues on the Rock edge, then you’ll enjoy their live performance if you haven’t seen them already.

Thanks to impresario Paul Dean and all the hard working volunteers at the NCBC who week in, week out, make this regular Friday night Blues club something special. Big thanks to Karen for the great photos too. PTMQ

 Laurence Jones’ website

New Crawdaddy’s website

92. PHIL THE MUSIC QUILL IS TWO YEARS OLD!

I can’t believe that my website is two years old on 1st February 2016! Just out of interest, here are my ten most popular articles; ordered by the amount of ‘hits’ they’ve had….

TOP TEN ARTICLES FROM THE LAST TWO YEARS:

  1. SON OF MAN at VILLAGE BLUES CLUB, DAGENHAM TRADES HALL. Gig review. Sept. 2015 (Review #69)
  2. MARIELLA TIROTTO & THE BLUES FEDERATION Live In Concert album review (#34)
  3. LARRY MILLER at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. July 2015 (#61)
  4. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at VILLAGE BLUES CLUB, DAGENHAM ROUNDHOUSE. Gig review. May 2015. (#56)
  5. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. October 2014 (#25)
  6. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB. Gig review. April 2015 (#44)
  7. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. Nov 2015 (#83)
  8. MARTIN TURNER Written In The Stars album review (#73)
  9. RED BUTLER at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB. Gig and interview. August 2015 (#66)
  10. MALAYA BLUE at DAVE SPARKS ROCKIN’ BLUES NIGHT, ANCHOR, BENFLEET. Gig and interview. Aug 2015 (#64)

 PTMQ

88. THE BLUES SPIDERS’ new album “Two” (2016)

(Pic: The Blues Spiders)

(Pic: The Blues Spiders)

At a Red Butler gig at the New Crawdaddy Club, Essex, recently (see my review #66), I ran into Russ Cottee of The Blues Spiders. He told me that the band would soon be recording their second album, and would I be interested in reviewing it when ready? Oh yes! So recently he sent me a pre-release download of the album; and the other day at Peggy Sue’s Music Bar (see my previous article #87), he gave me the CD version too. So here is my review…

The Essex-based Blues Spiders consist of Russ Cottee himself on guitar; Mitch ‘Harp Hog’ Greaves (Harp/Vocals); Paul Henshaw (Bass); and Bob Clouter (Drums). They describe themselves as a “Thames Delta Blues / R’n’B band (Real R’n’B, not the American plastic version)”. I think that’s fair comment! They are one of several good R’n’B bands currently making a name for themselves around the Home Counties. Influenced as you’d expect by local heroes like the Feelgoods / Wilko; and by classic Blues names such as Little Walter; Howlin’ Wolf; Chuck Berry “…and all the usual suspects”! My guess is that you’ve already decided if you’re going to like them or not! I certainly like ’em!

Two is a very good album. It never ceases to amaze me that there are still bands coming up with fresh ideas within the Blues / R’n’B genre. The Blues Spiders have achieved a good blend of the traditional with the innovative in this collection – and thus keeping the Blues alive and well. On the one hand its pretty much tried and tested stuff (and that’s not a criticism!); yet on the other hand, it has a few surprises up its sleeve.

There are eleven tracks on the album – mostly penned by Mr.Cottee; and some by Mr.Greaves. There is one cover (Elmore’s bottle-neck classic, ‘Shake Your Moneymaker’). Six are studio recordings; and five were recorded live at The Boom Boom Club, Surrey last August; and these give a good idea of the quality of the band’s on-stage performance.  They’re all good lively numbers anyway.

The musicianship is good too. There is some fine guitar from Cottee – including some tasty slide-work on ‘Devil In A Bottle’ which reminded me a bit of Johnny Winter, and a little of Micky Moody; and some great BB King-esque lead guitar on ‘You Don’t Get The Blues’.  Greaves’ vocals are very good, and well-suited to the style of the music; and his harp-work is excellent – especially on ‘Party Girl’; and ‘Great Expectations’ where he works well with Cottee’s guitar (which is also really good on this one). At all times the rhythm section of Henshaw and Clouter is tight, steady and reliable; driving the songs on both in the studio and the live recordings.

Another thing I like about this collection is the lyrics, which are more interesting than in yer average Blues song – particularly on ‘European Blues’ and ‘Me And Jimmy Reed’. The live section (tracks 7 – 11) truly captures the band’s ability to perform at gigs. I’ve said before that Blues is a form of music best heard and seen live. Capturing a good on-stage performance is not always easy, but The Blues Spiders have created a fine show-case for their live act with this album.

The CD version comes in a simple slip-case with a good basic logo design, and quite a lot of useful info on the back. No room for printed lyrics unfortunately, which is a shame because, as I said, these are good. Its available on iTunes now; or on CD at gigs for only a fiver. Its a recommendation from me if you like (as the band say) “real” R’n’B!  PTMQ.

For The Blues Spiders Face Book page (click here)

83. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hockley, Essex. Friday 13th November, 2015; + and a pre-gig interview with the new look band!

VATA Sound check (Photo: PTMQ)

VATA: Sound check (Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble:  My readers may remember that just over a year ago, my son James and I interviewed the highly talented young Rock band Virgil And The Accelerators at Touchline Live Music’s old venue in Hullbridge, Essex. (See entry #26). That interview preceded a most excellent performance from the band – in fact, one of the best Rock gigs that I had the pleasure of attending during 2014. So when Dave Kitteridge of the Touchline informed me that he’d booked VATA again (this time at the new venue), we were of course, keen to come along to the gig and catch up on what the boys have been doing lately. But a year is a long time in the world of Rock’n’Roll, and a lot can change…

Arriving early at the Touchline’s fine new venue in Hockley; we found that the band were still doing their sound-check. This was apparently due to having spent the best part of five hours stuck on the motorways between their base in Brum, and the venue here in Essex! We got ourselves a pint each and entered the Music Room; and were greeted by Dave, Brian and Trudie of the club – and by Virgil McMahon himself, who recognised us at once, and called out to us from the stage.

Back stage with VATA (Photo: PTMQ)

VATA: Back stage  (Photo: PTMQ)

The VATA interview:  The first of the changes was apparent in Virgil’s new look; with slicked back hair. He invited us back-stage where we reacquainted ourselves with his brother – and VATA’s drummer – Gabriel McMahon; and we were then introduced to the band’s new bassist Joel Wildgoose – another change; on which more anon. But I began by asking the band if they had any new material in the pipeline (ie, a new album planned); and whether we’d be hearing any new stuff that night?

Virgil: ‘We are going to be writing next month. We’ve got one in the set that we’ve been trying out on our Spanish tour, but its still in draft mode, called ‘The Lost”.

PTMQ: ‘Are you continuing more with the Rock, rather than Blues feel?’

(Photo: PTMQ)

VATA: Army Of Three! (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil: ‘Yeah, for sure. Army Of Three was a bit more Classic Rock-esque; but this time I think, something a lot more modern – something that sounds a bit younger’.

This need to attract a younger fan-base is becoming a common theme when James and I interview young Blues / Rock bands…

James:  ‘We interviewed Red Butler recently. (Read the interview #66). They are struggling to get a younger audience too. So have you noticed any trends in that respect in the last year? Is your fan-base getting any younger?’

Virgil:  ‘Yeah. Its a question of finding something that appeals to music lovers. To be honest with you, playing in Spain and continental Europe, you see a younger audience – far younger…’

Gabriel:  ‘Yeah, 85-90% of the audience are much younger – late teens to 30’s’.

(Photo: PTMQ)

The new look Virgil with his Les Paul known as ‘The Preacher’ (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil: ‘…whereas the audiences here are in their 50’s. There’s no problem with that, but at the same time you do want to appeal to a wider scope of people. We want to appeal to people who are ‘music fans’ rather than specifically ‘Rock fans’ or ‘Blues fans’.

It will be interesting then, to see in what direction the brothers – and new boy Joel – take VATA’s music for the third album. So moving on, I then asked about why the previous bassist Jack Alexander Timmis had left the band. This was a difficult subject for Virgil and Gabe to talk about; and I am not qualified (or authorized) to divulge what James and I were told in any detail. Suffice to say that there were issues within the band concerning management; and so another major change within VATA is that their manager is also no longer in the band’s employ. I must stress though, that the brothers told us sincerely, that there had been absolutely no issues between Jack and themselves – nor was the split due to ‘musical differences’ – and that they are still great friends; and he still turns up at gigs. Jack has now gone back to his career as a music tutor; and they are wishing him well in this role. But in spite of all the shenanigans that have been going on; and with a new bass player now on board; VATA now look settled again – and optimistic for the future. So I asked Joel how long he’d been with the band now?

Joel: ‘About two and a half months. First gig was in Spain – Barakaldo’.

New bassist Joel (Photo: PTMQ)

New bassist Joel (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil:  ‘The cool thing was that we knew Joel from two or three years ago. He’s got his own band called River Chickens – front man and guitar player. We did a couple of gigs with them and we were really blown away by them’.

Gabriel:  ‘Jack told us he was leaving at the start of the year’

Virgil:  ‘So just off the cuff I phoned Joel and said “Look do want to play Bass for us?”, and he did. And he’s done a sterling job’.

Surprisingly, Joel doesn’t consider himself to be a Bassist!  ‘I’m not a proper Bass player!’ he said modestly. ‘I don’t know anything about the Bass… I’m shit!’. Well, thus far we’d only witnessed a little of the sound-check, but he certainly didn’t look shit! He also has a lot of respect for Jack: ‘Big boots to fill, they were!’

James:  ‘What sort of capacity places  were you playing in Spain?’

Virgil:  Music clubs. A couple of them were like little bars – Rock bars’

Gabriel demonstrates his new Natal kit! (Photo: PTMQ)

Gabriel demonstrates his new Natal kit! (Photo: PTMQ)

Gabe:  ‘The smallest ones were like 150 – 250 people, weren’t they?’

Virgil:  ‘Yeah, but the biggest was in Pamplona; a good few hundred in there’.

The lads had enjoyed their time in Spain; and found the locals to be very appreciative of their music – and not afraid to say what they thought either!  They had a lot of fun too. One day after Virgil had given a guitar master class, and before a scheduled jam night with local guitarists, Gabe and Joel went out busking on the streets for a laugh and ‘a few pennies!’

Guitars:  Virgil had brought three geetars with him: His vintage Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty known as ‘The Preacher’ (his main stage axe); his Les Paul Gold Top (Joe Bonamassa signature edition) known as ‘Goldie’; and his battered Fender Strat known as ‘Alice’. The pale blue Gibson Firebird that he’d used at the last Touchline gig, was not in attendance on this occasion.

(Photo: PTMQ)

VATA: Under the lights at the Touchline (Photo: PTMQ)

Drums:  Gabriel, I noticed, had set up on the stage, a brand new signature drum kit; courtesy of Natal Drums. ‘Its a UK company owned by Marshall Amplification’ Gabe explained.  Its a very smart looking acrylic kit with the band’s Army Of Three logo emblazoned on the bass drum. It sounded great during the sound-check, and I was looking forward to hearing it in action.

Bass:   Joel, not being ‘a proper bass player’, didn’t even own a bass guitar when he was recruited to the band!

Gabe: ‘When Joel came on board, Virgil phoned me and said “He doesn’t have a bass!” Well, I’ve got an old Fender Precision Bass, so I said “let Joel play this”. But Virgil said “No, no, no! It has to be a 5-string!”

Joel:  ‘I didn’t have any choice really – the boys said “5-string!” so I thought, “alright, I’ll go and buy one”. That was the only one they had. So it’ll do! Its an Ibanez SDGR.’

(Photo: PTMQ)

Gabe is there somewhere, while Virgil plays a G-shaped A# chord! (Photo: PTMQ)

Another big change for the band is that their live set is now to be very different to the two-hour / nine-song extravaganza that they’d performed at the Touchline a year ago. Due to the advice of a Spanish promoter, the band have decided to shorten their set, but include more songs. Sadly this means less extended solos from Virgil. Personally I don’t mind lengthy numbers with improvised solos; but its true that if the boys want to appeal to a wider audience, then the set has to be tailored to that end. After thanking the band and a few photos, James and I returned to the auditorium which had by then filled up with (mostly) 50-something music fans (like me!) We looked forward to a great show. We were not to be disappointed!

The VATA Set:  Master of Ceremonies for the Touchline, Brian Sangwin, introduced the band, and they climbed on stage unpretentiously. Virgil took up ‘The Preacher’ and thanked the Touchline for having them back once more, before opening the set with a fine rendition of ‘Take Me Higher’ from Army Of Three. But there was precious little time to applaud, as ‘Blow To The Head’ followed – and did exactly that, with its Halen-esque ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’

(Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil with his battered Strat known as ‘Alice’ (Photo: PTMQ)

The boys looked more animated than I remembered from last time, and I guess this is due to the lively on-stage presence of Joel. He threw himself about with great enthusiasm whilst delivering great bass-work. And the rockin’ good show continued with ‘All Night Long’; and this was followed by another from the second album, the remarkable ‘Give It Up’. The moody ’88’; and ‘The Storm’ from the The Radium were performed next. At all times we witnessed superb axemanship from Virgil; and tight reliable drumming and bass from Gabe and Joel respectively. Gabe’s new kit was certainly impressive.

With Virgil changing to his Strat ‘Alice’; the band’s performance of ‘Working Man’ was the nearest we got to the extended solo.  ‘Backstabber’ – my favourite from the first album – followed; with Virgil changing back to ‘The Preacher’. It had evolved slightly from the original recorded version, but was no less enjoyable. The afore-mentioned new one that the boys had tried out on their Spanish fans was up next.  ‘The Lost’ is a slow, heavy number with a menacing vibe to it; a bit Sabbath-like, I thought; and with an unexpected ending. It was the only taste of what we are to expect from the boys in the future. The main set finished with the wonderful ‘Free’. I very much like this song with its melodic chorus and its ‘Southern-Rock’ inspired solo. With that, the lads left the stage to great applause.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Joel takes lead vocal for ‘Rock’n’Roll’ (Photo: PTMQ)

Encore!  But they soon returned for a two-song encore, beginning with a fantastic rendition of their beautiful instrumental ‘Silver Giver’, off the debut album. It was pains-takingly delivered. I was disappointed to find that it had been temporarily dropped from the set when I saw the band last year, but I’m glad to report. that it is now fully reinstated. It too has evolved since it was recorded but was still superb!

Only a good old rocker could end the show; and the boys had decided to play their only cover of the night – a rousing version of Led Zep’s classic ‘Rock’n’Roll’. Joel took lead vocals for this, and did a fine job with it.

It had certainly been a shorter set – 13 songs in less than two hours rather than the previous nine songs in a full two hours. But it was no less of a high octane performance from a very tight and impressive band indeed. Gone were the lengthy abstract improvised solos; but there was still no doubt as to Virgil’s fine fretboard abilities. And Gabe and Joel impressed us very much too.

(Photo: PTMQ)

The stage at the Touchline (Photo: PTMQ)

Farewells:  We had a few words with the band after the show; and Virgil gave us a copy of their Set List printed on the back of some scribbled notes from his recent ‘Guitar master Class’. With our ears ringing, we said our goodbyes and left the club satisfied with another VATA performance – albeit quite different to last time.

VATA are now embarked on a short nine-date UK tour which includes two of my other favourite venues – The Boom Boom Club in Sutton; and The Beaverwood Club in Chiselhurst. So I’m hoping to get along to see the band in action again during this tour.  ‘All we care about is putting on a good show for people. Next year’s going to be good’ predicted Virgil. James and I are wishing the lads the best of luck anyway. Finally, thanks to Dave, Brian, Trudie and Steve the sound man at the Touchline for hosting yet another memorable gig. PTMQ

For info on gigs etc; here is a link to VATA’s website…

http://www.vataband.com/

Here is a link to the Touchlines website…

http://touchlinelivemusic.co.uk/

43. THE STEVE EGGS BAND “Hometown Skyline” (2014)

'Hometown Skyline' (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Hometown Skyline’ (Photo: PTMQ)

On the way back from seeing The Steve Eggs Band at the Boom Boom Club, Sutton – where they were supporting Dutch Prog-Rock maestros Focus (see my review on this Blog #40) –  I played their debut album Hometown Skyline that I bought at the gig for a fiver. It was probably the best fiver I’ve spent so far this year, because this is a really good album to say the least; and I played it continually all the way home.

It is a collection of ten good original songs – all, bar one, penned by Steve Eggs himself. Steve is the lead vocalist and plays Rhythm Guitar and  Harmonica. The rest of the band consist of: Jon Kershaw (Lead Guitar, Vocals); Peter Wass (Bass, Vocals); and Mark Taylor (Drums, Vocals). Helping out with Hammond Organ as necessary, is Gavin Kinch.  Having seen them perform live, I know them all to be very good musicians. I must admit that I didn’t know their names previously; but I’m guessing they’ve all been around a while as they obviously all possess plenty of experience and skill.

The band describe themselves as ‘Country/Rock/Pop’. I’d say they are more Rock than Country; and more Country than Pop. I see them as ‘quality Light-Rock with strong Country-Rock influences’ –  but any way you choose to categorise them, they’re bloody good! I’m hearing an eclectic mix of influences when I listen to the album, too numerous to list; or too elusive to put my finger on, but something has come together nicely for this band and this album is a demonstration of it.

The Steve Eggs Band at The Boom Boom Club, March 2015. (Photo: PTMQ)

The Steve Eggs Band at The Boom Boom Club, March 2015. (Photo: PTMQ)

The album kicks off with the excellent ‘Roll Over’; a great opening number, and one of the best tracks in the collection. The band have set the bar high from the start, but they are equal to their own challenge, as every track is a good’n’. Both musically and lyrically these songs are all interesting and palatable; and worthy of multiple plays. I’ve had the CD constantly playing in my car lately (the Pete Wass penned ‘Here Comes The Rain’ seems particularly suitable for driving). In fact, I can’t fault the album;  every aspect of it is very satisfying: Song-writing; musicianship; vocals; recording; everything really.

I normally try to pick a favourite track on my album reviews, but I’m having trouble doing that with this collection because they’re all so very good! ‘Roll Over’; ‘Here Comes The Rain’; ‘The Heartbreaker’ and ‘That’s No Good’  stand out for me, but there are no disappointments. The band have done some earlier recording too, which I haven’t heard, but I’ll look into that ASAP. It will be interesting to see where they take their music to in the future as well.

The album was recorded at Rocket Studios, Croydon; and produced by Gavin Kinch and the band themselves; with mastering done by Pete Maher. The CD cover is of the card gate-fold type. It has good basic info printed in it and a few photos by Steve Dulieu and Sandy Lawson. The original cover artwork is by Alfie Kershaw.

I recommend Hometown Skyline highly; and wish the band every success for the future. PTMQ.

Here is a link to The Steve Eggs Band website…..

http://www.steveeggsband.co.uk/

Here is a vid of The Steve Eggs Band performing the excellent ‘Roll Over’……

40. FOCUS (+ THE STEVE EGGS BAND) at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton. Friday, 20th March, 2015.

Menno and Thijs watching the support act from the wings! (Photo: PTMQ)

Menno and Thijs of FOCUS, watching the support act from the wings. (Photo: PTMQ)

Anyone who has been reading my Blog since the New Year will soon realise that it has been very much dominated by a variety of Dutch bands of late. First a review of Mariëlla Tirotto’s wonderful new album: Live In Concert (See my Blog #34). Then a review of the excellent debut album by Blueshaker: Handle With Care. (See my Blog #36). Now, I am writing a review of a fantastic gig by – perhaps the most well-known band from The Netherlands – the mighty FOCUS.

One of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve been to in recent years, was Focus at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton, back in October 2013 (just a few months before I started my blog).  That was the tour to promote their tenth album – simply entitled Focus X. Of course, when I heard that these Dutch Prog-Rock veterans were due to play the same venue again this year, I jumped at the chance of seeing them in action once more. This time they were also promoting their Golden Oldies compilation album (see my blog #3: ‘Prog-Rock Revisited’). Cousin Charlie got the tickets sorted with promoter PETE FEENSTRA, and we were ready to go.

Now, I first became aware of Focus as a 13 year-old, back in ’73 when the wonderful instrumental ‘Sylvia’ became a hit single in the UK. A school-mate of mine had the live album Focus At The Rainbow  which I liked straight away; and which introduced me to more of their unique sounds. Sometime after that, another mate lent me Moving Waves – again, a good album. And so since those musically formative teenage years back in the 70s, I’ve considered myself to be something of a Focus fan; so I was very much looking forward to the gig.

As regular readers of my Blog will already know, I like the Boom Boom Club; its one of my favourite venues. Its a fair drive from my home in Essex, and crossing the Thames at Dartford on Friday afternoons can be a pain in the arse; so when I go to this venue I normally set off early and stay with Charlie (who lives just ten minutes walk from the club), and take the opportunity to sink one or three pints – a rare pleasure for me these days as I’m usually driving home from gigs completely sober! We arrived at the venue in good time, and said hello to Pete Feenstra and a couple of others that we knew.

THE STEVE EGGS BAND (Photo: PTMQ)

Support act: THE STEVE EGGS BAND (Photo: PTMQ)

First on the bill was the support act, THE STEVE EGGS BAND – who describe themselves as a ‘Country/Rock/pop’ group. They hail from South London; and were founded in 2011. Charlie had seen them before and said they were good. I’d heard the name, but I’d never seen them; so I was interested to find out all about them. They are a four-piece outfit  led by Mr.Eggs himself (lead vocal/rhythm guitar); and ably assisted by JON KERSHAW (lead guitar/vocals); PETE WASS (bass/vocals); and MARK TAYLOR (drums/vocals).

Now I like a bit of Country-Rock and I was looking forward to it.  This band did not disappoint. They began with their Eagles-esque song ‘Going To California’ – I liked the trans-Atlantic lyric about ‘a London boy’ travelling to the USA in this song.  Good start. They then continued their short set of eight original Rock / Country-Rock songs,  which included: ‘Here Comes The Rain’ penned by bassist Pete; ‘Heartbreaker’ from the new album; ‘Good Intentions’ which reminded me of Molly Hatchet; and the rockin’  ‘Roll Over’.  They are obviously influenced by some of the Rock and Country-Rock greats, yet they do have an originality that clearly shines through. I liked them.

As a musical unit, these boys were tight and competent. Steve, equipped with a Gibson acoustic, strummed a steady rhythm throughout, and sang confidently. Lead guitarist Jon, sporting a red Strat, showed himself to be very useful, very early on; and impressed with his wah-wah pedal. Pete played a Hofner bass guitar (don’t often see them), and made very good use of it, I must say. Drummer Mark looked precarious, parked on the edge of the crowded stage; but produced a fine exhibition of the percussive art.  They’re a good band to watch too; quite lively. They look like they thoroughly enjoy playing their music, and appreciate the applause they are awarded at the end of each song. I got hold of a copy of their latest album Hometown Skyline, and may write a review on this Blog soon.

Here is a link to The Steve Eggs Band website:

http://www.steveeggsband.co.uk/

Focus At The Boom Boom Club! (Photo:PTMQ)

Focus At The Rainbow Boom Boom Club! (Photo:PTMQ)

And now to the main event. The last time I saw Focus, as I’ve said, was in October ’13 at this same venue. That occasion was a mid-week gig, and the club was far from full up (we even sat at tables like a trendy music café – unusual for the Boom Boom). This time though, the punters were rammed in from the stage-front to the exit! As soon as the support act had cleared their kit from the stage, the indifatigable Mr.Feenstra was up there introducing the band we’d all come to see – the  inimitable Prog-Rock legends, Focus.

The line-up that climbed on stage to great applause at the Boom Boom Club have been together since 2011. Yet all of them have had a lengthy association with the group over the years. They currently consist of: THIJS VAN LEER (hammond organ, flute, scat-vocals, yodels); MENNO GOOTJES (guitar); BOBBY JACOBS (bass); and PIERRE VAN DER LINDEN (drums). Excellent musicians, all.

Thijs started the proceedings with a majestic flute intro to the first track from their debut album of 1970 Focus Plays Focus – the self-titled piece, ‘Focus’. What better way to begin? Before the cheers had finished the band were straight into their first European hit single: ‘House Of The King’. Their classic piece ‘Eruption’ followed to great approval. Thijs took centre stage during this for a flute solo – and some remarkable scat-singing! This rendition also show-cased Menno’s guitar skills; showing him to be well worthy of standing in JAN AKKERMAN’s shoes!

Hocus Pocus, its Focus! (Photo: PTMQ)

Hocus Pocus, its Focus! (Photo: PTMQ)

After Thijs reminded us that his Mrs was manning the merch desk, they gave us the iconic ‘Sylvia’ – arguably their most popular work – and a fine execution of the piece it was too. From Focus X they then gave us the manic ‘All Hens On Deck’. The apparently seldom played ‘Peace March’ was played next; followed by the beautiful ‘Focus II’.

From the Hamburger Concerto they then played two pieces, including ‘Harem Scarem’ –  which is about the joys and the dangers of alcohol. This was extended into a sequence of remarkable solos by all the band members in turn. Each excelling in his chosen field. Menno was particularly noticeable in this – his Gibson Les Paul being an extension of his mind! Yet all were exceptional.  Then we were plunged into the finale of the show – it was, of course, the iconic ‘Hocus Pocus’.

After the gig, Charlie and I had a brief chat with Thijs, Bobby and Menno. We complemented them on a remarkable performance. ‘We were in good form’  Jacobs said. They certainly were.

Thanks to Pete F and all the hard workers at the Boom Boom for making this gig happen.

PTMQ

31. A REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2014

A couple of my friends have recently asked if I planned to do a review of 2014. I’d like to; but time as always is against me! So I just thought I’d say a few words about the year with respect to my blog. Its been quite a remarkable 11 months since I kicked off with a review of the STRAWBS gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC here in Essex. At first, I thought no one would be interested, but I was glad to see that’s not the case. Right from the off, I had quite a few followers. That first Strawbs review has remained one of the most popular too.

I’ve met a lot of helpful and interesting people during the course of the year – not just musicians; but promoters; writers; photographers; or just knowledgeable music lovers.  Some of those musos I have been a fan of since my teens  – MICKY MOODY and MARTIN TURNER to name but two especially. Its also very flattering when some of these musicians have personally invited me to gigs and sent CDs for me to review as well.

Anyway, here are just a few thoughts and facts on my blog’s year….

MOST POPULAR BLOG was #25, MTWA at Touchline Live Music. Second was The Move at the Boom Boom Club (#15). In third place was MTWA again (blog #5); and fourth. The Micky Moody Band at Coolham (#23). I’m glad to say that these entries are still attracting new readers through search engines too.

BEST ROCK ALBUM must go to VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS for their superb second studio album Army Of Three. It was very flattering to be put on the Guest List by Virgil, and to meet and interview the band before their gig at the Touchline. (Blog #26). Looking forward to seeing what VATA will be up to in the new year.

BEST ROCK GIG for me was a difficult choice. I saw fabulous performances from THE MOVE; VATA;  and the THE STRAWBS. But I’d say MTWA at The Touchline just wins by a whisker (Blog #25). Nice of Martin Turner to agree to an interview beforehand too. This coming year, so far, I plan to see FOCUS and the PINK FAIRIES.

BEST BLUES-ROCK ALBUM. Difficult! Could be LARRY MILLER’s Soldier Of The Line;  BERNIE MARSDEN’s Shine; or  LAURENCE JONES’ Temptation; but I’d choose DEBORAH BONHAM’s Spirit I think. I was hoping for an interview with her too, but she unfortunately had to cancel her gig at the Touchline due to a chest infection.

BEST BLUES ALBUM: I enjoyed JAMES ANTHONY’s Some People Get It, which he sent from Canada for me to review. (Blog #24); and MILTON ‘n’ FARROW’s Skiffleodeon – also given to me by the band to review (Blog #22). RUBY TIGER’s Vistas was excellent as was MATT ANDERSEN’s Coal Mining Blues; but I took a shine to DANA GILLESPIE’s Cat’s Meow the most.

BEST BLUES GIG is another tough choice. Great shows by COCO MONTOYA (Blog #14); MICKY MOODY BAND (Blog #23); and RUBY AND THE REVELATORS (Blog #16); but the best for me, was the very special show put on for the BOOM BOOM CLUB’s 1,000th gig; which included superb performances from OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; LAURENCE JONES and THE VOODOO SHEIKHS among others (Blog #30). In 2015 I’d like to see RED BUTLER and LARRY MILLER if I can.

BEST FOLK GIG  I attended during the year was OXJAM MUSIC FESTIVAL in Exeter. A great selection of West Country folk acts in one afternoon. I was invited by my good friends in DEVONBIRD who played a wonderful little set – as did every artist present. (Blog entry #28).

BEST FOLK ALBUM in my opinion was ANGE HARDY’s The Lament Of The Black Sheep. I’m hoping to review soon (see Blog #32).  Also in 2014, I heard ADRIAN NATION’s second album Fall Or Fly, which is excellent. As for 2015, I’m looking forward to the second DEVONBIRD album which should be released in the spring – they are recording as I write. For info on Devonbird, see Blog #4.

DOWNSIDES. I had a couple of negative comments made to me during the course of the year – one due to a misreading of my blog; and one due to a certain curmudgeonly singer-songwriter who wrote unpleasant and untrue things about me – even after I gave him a good review!  I never intend to cause offence – in fact, I’ve been criticised for liking everything! Well, I do seem to! (I suppose if I didn’t like something, I wouldn’t write about it). Anyway, the vast majority of those I’ve written about; and my readers too, have been very complimentary and supportive indeed; so I didn’t loose any kip over it!

REGRETS: ‘…..I have few, but then again, too few to mention’! These surround missed gigs. I was particularly peeved at missing LARRY MILLER; and TERRY REID because I couldn’t get time off work; and DEBORAH BONHAM’s gig at the Touchline was cancelled (as I said above) due to the fact that the poor lady had a chest infection.  I hope she’s well now and will play there soon.

FUTURE PROJECTS include a review of Ange Hardy’s Black Sheep album; an article on my friend, the song-writer TONY PARTIS; and continuing to go and see as many and as varied gigs as possible. I also plan to get into the studio myself to try to record some of my own songs (for what they’re worth!). And I shall continue to support and promote my friends’ projects too.

A SAD FAREWELL to those musicians who sadly passed away in 2014:  JOHNNY WINTER (See my blog #17); JACK BRUCE; JOE COCKER; PHIL EVERLY; ACKER BILK; PETE SEEGER; BOBBY WOMACK; TOMMY RAMONE; ALVIN STARDUST; and LYNSEY DE PAUL. These luminaries will be sadly missed; but leave us a fine legacy in their work which their fans will cherish for all time. R.I.P. (My apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone).

THANKS to all those who have supported; encouraged; offered constructive criticism; advice; photos; and other pics; and generally taken the time to read my blog. Those people are too numerous to mention but they know who they are; so thank you one and all! Here’s looking forward to more of the same in 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! PTMQ

30. AN EVENING FOR WALTER TROUT. Featuring OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; SONJA KRISTINA; LAURENCE JONES; and THE VOODOO SHEIKS. The 1,000th gig at the BOOM BOOM CLUB. Friday, 28th November, 2014

PETE FEENSTRA: Promoter and Master of Ceremonies at the Boom Boom Club (Photo by CGM)

PETE FEENSTRA: Promoter and Master of Ceremonies at the Boom Boom Club (Photo by CGM)

 

This gig was originally billed as AN EVENING FOR WALTER TROUT – with  The Walter Trout Band (without Walter, of course as he is still recovering from illness), but featuring his son, JON TROUT; LAURENCE JONES; ANDREW ELT; and MITCH LADDIE. And many people (including myself) were very much looking forward to it. However, just a few days before the show, we heard that the plug had been pulled on the whole WTB tour – and to be honest, I don’t fully understand why. This was disappointing enough, but left PETE FEENSTRA of the BOOM BOOM CLUB with a double sticky wicket, as not only did he need a gig for the Friday night, but it was also to be a celebration of 1,000 gigs at the venue – a very special milestone in the history of the club indeed! Drastic action was required, sharpish!

Thankfully, ‘The future of British Blues’ Laurence Jones agreed to play anyway (a big plus as he is very well liked at the club); and Pete managed to get together some other very good musicians for the line-up at short notice. As well as LJ; he roped in OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; SONJA KRISTINA (of CURVED AIR); and THE VOODOO SHEIKS. Backing musicians too (of whom, more later) had to be shackled together ASAP.

Now, I like the Boom Boom Club, although its a fair trot from where I live. But if something special at the venue is going down, I’ll drive over and stay with cousin Charlie who is a big music fan and lives locally. This means I can sink a few pints as well! Charlie is also a keen photographer, and often comes along to take photos for me; and this he agreed to do tonight, of course. My son James came too as he’s a great fan of some of the very talented young Blues and Rock guitarists (like Jones)  that seem to have emerged lately (I’m glad to say); and sometimes accompanies me to gigs.

We tres hombres arrived early at the venue to have a chat with a few people I wanted to speak to – not to mention  to take advantage of the free drink that had been offered to the first 100 punters! So, gratis pint of Bombardier in hand, I spoke to the guv’nor Pete Feenstra about a couple of things; and I was also keen to have a word or two with fellow music writer NIGEL FOSTER (who had got an excellent review of this gig on line within a few hours).

VOODOO SHEIKS: A white-knuckle Blues ride! (Photo by CGM)

VOODOO SHEIKS: A white-knuckle Blues ride! (Photo by CGM)

Before long, Pete (in his role as master Of Ceremonies) was on stage welcoming we punters and explaining that all the proceeds from the gig were to go towards Walter Trout’s on-going medical treatment. Then he announced the first act:  the Sussex-based Voodoo Sheiks. I’d heard the name and was keen to see them live. They are a four-piece R’n’B outfit consisting of ‘SLOW-BLOW DAVE’ MAGSON (Vocals & Harp); ADRIAN THOMAS (Guitar & Backing Vocals); ANDY PULLIN (Bass); and JOHN COOMBES (Drums).

There is no messing about with this band: right from the off – with a song called ‘The Thrill Ain’t Gone’ – you know that you’re in for a white-knuckle ride of Blues at the R’n’R end of the spectrum. Before we had time to take a breath, they followed up with ‘Automatic’ featuring ‘Slow-Blow Dave’ on Harmonica. Then they gave us a good new song called ‘Have A Heart’ (from their forthcoming album) – great use of the Wah-Wah from Adrian on this one. Next they covered JOHN LEE HOOKER’s classic ‘Boom Boom’ – and what more appropriate song could be played at this club for this gig?  Excellent.

The band slowed things down a lot then, playing ‘Exit Wound’ – a slow, mellow 12-Bar. I loved it. Nice solo from Adrian.  This was followed by the lively ‘Spirit’ –  an original composition from their Borrowed And New album. ‘Can’t Keep A Good Man Down’ kept us up and rockin’; and their final offering was another from their Borrowed… album, ‘I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog That Way’.

This was a good little set from a very good band indeed. The rhythm section were impressively tight and competent; ‘Sow-Blow’ was great on vocals and harp (and entertainingly animated as a front-man!) But I was most impressed by Adrian’s playing; and guitar sound.  I spoke to him briefly after their set. He played an  ERNIE BALL MUSICMAN SILHOUETTE SPECIAL through a BLACK STAR amp. I must say, this gave a very impressive sound throughout; for both rhythm and lead work.

LAURENCE JONES: Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club! (Photo by CGM)

LAURENCE JONES: Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club! (Photo by CGM)

Next on the Bill was the Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club – the young and very talented Laurence Jones. He was accompanied by his usual Bassist, the incomparable ROGER INNIS; but his drummer MIRI MIETTINEN unfortunately couldn’t make it, and so had to be replaced by IAN PALMER for the night. (Who, incidentally, is the nephew of legendary Prog-Rock drummer, CARL PALMER).

Gold Top in hand, LJ’s set opened with ‘Can’t Keep Living Like This’ from his latest album Temptation.  It was a rousing start; LJ immediately impressing with guitar and vocals. After thanking the fans for their avid applause, he posed the question: ‘Are you ready to hear some Blues?’ Oh yes! And the lively ‘You Wind Me Up’ continued the Heavy Blues vibe. Changing to a Strat, he gave us his moody ‘Southern Breeze’ next; and followed it with his song inspired by his confrontation with a huge ‘dirty rat in my bed’ in Louisiana:  ‘Soul Swamp River’. Standing at the front of the stage he sang confidently without mic for part of the song.

One of LJ’s favourite songs is the iconic, ‘All Along The Watchtower’.  He has made this his own to some extent, and it has become a regular part of his set – and a firm favourite of his fans too. Again standing front of stage, he played a blinding solo right in front of our little party; and we were treated to a master-class in lead guitar at close range. ‘Foolin’ Me’ (the opener from Temptation), followed. Its a great rocker. There was only time for one more number: ‘Fall From The Sky’ finished the set. This a well-constructed melodic rock song; during which we were encouraged to sing along.  All in all, very enjoyable little set.

This was the third time I’d seen LJ live – all three times at the Boom Boom Club – and the third time I’ve been impressed with his performance. (see my blog entry #14). He has noticeably improved yet again in only the six months since I saw him last. He is more confidant; more relaxed; more skilful – and with stubble on his  face, he doesn’t look like a boy any more either! Roger was outstanding with his monstrous 6-string Bass as usual; and there is a good on-stage interaction between the two; both musically and personally. Stand-in drummer Ian Palmer did a very fine job too. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t hear ‘Move On’; but with so much to get through, set-time was obviously limited.

SONJA KRISTINA: Acid-Folk diva! (Photo by CGM)

SONJA KRISTINA: Respected Acid-Folk diva! (Photo by CGM)

It was time for a significant change of pace then, as SONJA KRISTINA (of Progressive Folk-Rock veterans CURVED AIR), took to the stage with only her keyboard player ROBERT NORTON – and a  very distinctive Washburn acoustic in hand. Unannounced, she began her set with the hauntingly beautiful ‘Citadel’ (from her Songs From The Acid Folk album). This was followed by ‘Colder Than A Rose In Snow’, which is from the same collection; and also on Curved Air’s new North Star album. It has the same vibe about it too. She gave us her ‘Melinda More Or Less’ (from Phantsmagoria) next – a classic originally penned in 1967.  She followed this with her cover of Lennon and McCartney’s song ‘Across The Universe’ – a nice version of an old classic. Sonja then said she’d do one more. ‘Back Street Luv’?  I asked from the audience. ‘Yeah’ she replied ‘….a kind of acidy-folky ‘Back Street Luv”. I love the original of this song, and I loved this ‘acidy-folky’ version too. It was nice for me to see it performed live after all this time as well.

I thought it was a good little set. There were a couple of  people around me  who voiced an opinion that perhaps this wasn’t a suitable set for the Bluesy vibe of the evening, but I couldn’t agree – I thought it made for an interesting change of pace in the proceedings; and introduced a little variety.  Having said that, I think I’d rather have listened to it in the laid-back comfort of a sleepy Folk club, but I enjoyed it very much nonetheless. Sonja was in good voice throughout, and Mr.Norton was impressive on the keys.

Could have ben in Chicago - Grand, Jones and Darby (Photo by CGM)

We could have ben in Chicago! Grand, Jones and Darby (Photo by CGM)

The headliners for the night were then introduced by Pete: veteran guitarists  OTIS GRAND and ALAN DARBY; backed by GLYNN EVANS (Bass); MUNCH MOORE (Keys); and Ian Palmer once again (Drums). This was a band hastily coupled together at short notice, and most of them had never played together before. So what we were about to witness was  testament to their professionalism, experience and skill.  As soon as we heard the first few licks, we felt that we’d been spiritually transported to a Blues club in Downtown Chicago! And that vibe stayed put right through the set; as what was to follow was a demonstration of pure Urban Electric Blues at its best.

Darby (tooled up  with beautiful looking Firebird); and Grand (armed with a red Strat sprayed gold – and wearing a remarkable Mexican Mariachi suit) immediately  launched into ‘A Man Like Me’ – the suit entirely appropriate for the Latin-Blues vibe of the number!  Sharing vocals and swapping solos, our two lead guitarists led us into a classy Blues wonderland.  It was an impressive start from a group of musos not at all used to playing together as a unit. And if anything,  the next offering was even better; as they then hit us with a sublime version of ‘There’s Gotta Be Changes Made’ – a laid-back Chicago Blues to close your eyes and drift away to. The two of them duelled solos for a good eleven minutes  – and I loved it!

Welcomed back on stage then was Laurence Jones. He’d already proved that he can hold his own with the old masters – I’d seen him jam impressively with Walter Trout on this very stage 18 months before. This time with a Telecaster, LJ immediately took to the mic for ‘Easy Baby’ – he and the other two, with faces contorted in ecstasy,  jammed in turns; improvising from the heart for another lengthy demonstration of their art. There then followed an up-tempo untitled instrumental shuffle; again show-casing their collective skills.

Feenstra retuned to the stage once again then; introducing the formidable rhythm section of Evans, Moore and Palmer, and emphasising that they’d only met this afternoon and had been ‘…working their socks off here tonight!’. There was time for one more he said. It was ‘Looking Good’ – in both title and performance. Grand and Darby traded licks superlatively; and when they finished, the applause was deafening. Fantastic!

After the gig Otis soon appeared at the bar, and I tackled him. I asked if he remembered the JOHNNY WINTER  gig back in ’92  where the Blues expert RAY TOPPING and myself met him backstage. (See my blog entry #17). He said that he did, so I told him Ray had since passed away; and we spoke of Ray’s famous vinyl collection (God knows what happened to that after he died). Then someone asked about the Mariachi suit. Otis said he bought it from a Mexican who happened to be the same size!  After a couple of photos, and a bit more chat, we left Otis to speak to some others.

At the merch desk we spoke to Laurence Jones, and congratulated him on a fine performance. We spoke of his nomination for the UK Blues Challenge (‘The Battle For Brussels’), which is to be held at the Boom Boom Club on 11th December (which sadly  I cannot now attend).   Unfortunately I didn’t see Alan Darby, or Sonja Kristina; I’d like to have had a word with them too. And I missed the opportunity to speak to the two bassists, Glynn Evans and Roger Inniss. But I did have a little chat with Pete and Nigel again.

Kudos to to Pete, Eric, and all the staff at the Boom Boom Club (including the hard-working ladies behind the bar) for their marvellous efforts in getting this milestone show up and running; and to all the very talented musicians who made this a most memorable experience. Thanks to Charlie for the excellent photos; and Phil Honley for the video.  Looking forward to the next 1,000 gigs at the club! PTMQ

Here’s a Phil Honley video of Grand and Darby playing ‘There’s Gotta Be Changes Made’ . Other videos from Phil from the same show are also on You Tube……

26. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hullbridge, Essex. Friday, 24th October, 2014; plus chatting with the band pre-show.

Virgil talks about his favourite Stat (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil talks about his favourite Stat  (Photo: PTMQ)

I’ve been aware of VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS (VATA) for a couple of years or more now; but never seen them live before. Their album The Radium is a brilliant debut; and their second, Army Of Three which has recently been released, (to paraphrase one of their songs) ‘takes them higher’.  I’ve been listening to both albums a lot lately; and enjoying them. So I was honoured when VATA’s guitarist VIRGIL McMAHON said he’d put me on the Guest List for their gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, in Hullbridge, Essex.

My sports journalist son, James and I, turned up at the venue nice and early; and were warmly welcomed by club proprietor DAVE KITTRIDGE and his wife Trudy. Virgil himself soon appeared and invited us back to the Green Room to meet the other two members of the band – younger brother and drummer, GABRIEL McMAHON; and bassist JACK ALEXANDER TIMMIS. And three more welcoming, friendly and articulate young musicians you couldn’t imagine. (They are 22; 21; and 25 years old, respectively). An immediate comparison of Virgil and Gabriel with the guitarist and drummer Eddie and Alex  VAN HALEN is obvious. (And even the band’s ‘VA’ logo is reminiscent of Van Halen’s famous ‘VH’ symbol, I noticed).

As the brothers originally hailed from South Africa (although living for some years now, in Wales, and more lately, Birmingham), we started the interview by asking Virgil about the music scene in their homeland. Apart from traditional tribal; or Afrikaans Boeremusiek, there is apparently little in the way of a home-grown blues or rock scene – guitarist DAN PATLANSKY  being a rare exception.

James with VATA (Photo by PTMQ)

James with VATA (Photo by PTMQ)

What then, you may ask, are their influences? No doubt their first was their father HENDRY McMAHON, who introduced the brothers to blues-orientated rock music from a very early age; encouraging them to learn to play instruments, and sit in on his gigs. Consequently the boys have a fantastic knowledge of rock music that was old, long before they were born. And listening to their conversation – and of course, their two excellent albums – this becomes very clear. And for an old rocker like me, its nice to see! For example, when Virgil saw my Twitter moniker (Phil The Music Quill@ptmq2112) on my calling card, he immediately recognised the 2112 as a RUSH album title from ’76 – not many people get that these days! Away from the band, each member listens to a wide variety of sounds too – not just Rock or Blues. Personally, when I listen to the band, I hear bits that remind me of all sorts of other artists; and James hears other things too. This may be coincidence of direct influence; but at all times, VATA’s music has its own style and vibe to it.

An observation I made to them, having listened to their work, is their (sometimes) similarity to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) which emerged from late ’78 onwards. For those not familiar with it; this was the inevitable back-lash against the Punk/New Wave aberration of the mid-70s; where young rock bands influenced by late-60s / early-70s rock bands, suddenly took off – led by such luminaries as my old mates IRON MAIDEN; and SAXON. With VATA being influenced by some of that same earlier music, I’m hearing a similar fresh and exciting interpretation of the old vibe, with an energy, enthusiasm, and sound, reminiscent of the NWOBHM. VATA also have the added advantage of  35 extra years of Rock since the NWOBHM to draw upon now too.

VATA looking unimpressed by my playing of  Virgil's Black Beauty! (Photo by JPC)

VATA looking unimpressed by my playing of Virgil’s Black Beauty! (Photo by JPC)

Like those earlier bands, their music has a Blues base, of course, but VATA are feeling more comfortable as an out and out Rock unit. James asked if they thought their style was changing. They confirmed this. The second album has certainly moved away from Blues to a large extent. This is something they think has evolved rather than been designed: ‘It wasn’t intentional – its just how it came out…’ Virgil explained, ‘…we always liked the heavier side of Blues anyway’. They feel that Rock gives them more scope to experiment  – as Jack pointed out ‘I think all three of us want to get away from the Blues world….. there’s only so much you can do with a 12-Bar Blues’. Saying that though, they all have a great deal of respect for the Blues genre. And they are not too concerned with what other young Blues-Rock bands are up to – as Virgil said ‘All we’re focused on is The Accelerators’.

Virgil and Gabe’s Dad Hendry in fact, was the founder of the Accelerators; and brought his sons into the band one at a time; before departing himself, and leaving the group in their precocious, and highly capable hands. So from 2006 the group was called Virgil And The Accelerators. Brummie bassist Jack joined later to complete the band in its current form. At first they were, of course, just playing pubs on Friday and Saturday nights ‘for a couple of quid, and a bit of fun’. But once they met manager MARTIN LEWIS (at the ROBIN 2 in Brum), things started to take off.  Since then, they haven’t looked back; and have supported veteran bands like URIAH HEEP and CHICKEN SHACK among others. In fact, they are at pains to point out how much they owe to Martin and his wife Kate; believing that they’d be nowhere without their guidance – ‘Guardian Angels’ is how Gabe describes them. These days the brothers even lodge with the couple at their house  in Brum; which is in a good central position in the UK for gigging.

New material is usually written by the group collectively from jams in their converted garage at home, where they can play in as near concert conditions as possible; bouncing ideas off each other.  This arrangement is not only conducive to the development of new material, but also facilitates the revision of their earlier stuff too: ‘We try not to carry on playing the older songs the same way for any extended period of time’ says Virgil. Therefore their songs are constantly evolving. They are a kind of tri-partite democracy that refer to themselves, as  ‘VATA Band’ Gabe explains. Its a great dynamic that works very well indeed.

Virgil's geetars: 2 Stats; 2 Les Pauls; and a Firebird. (Photo by  PTMQ)

Virgil’s geetars: 2 Stats; 2 Les Pauls; and a Firebird. (Photo by PTMQ)

Inevitably, with both James and myself being guitarists (although not in Virgil’s league, of course!), we asked about the small collection of geetars that he’d brought with him to the gig. It soon became clear that he has a comprehensive knowledge of the instrument in general; and specifically of his own.  He brought with him: a GIBSON FIREBIRD 7 (limited edition);  two GIBSON LES PAULS (a JOE BONAMASSA signature edition Gold Top with ‘relicked’ finish;  and a Black Beauty known as ‘The Preacher’. Two distressed FENDER STRATOCASTERS  were also present: one a ’62 Custom-Shop model,  signed by PHILIP SAYCE and known as ‘Alice’.

I asked the band if there was anything they’d like me to say (or not say) when I wrote up the interview. They merely wished me to thank all those who have come to their gigs and bought their albums. Interview completed, it was time for the lads to get ready for their performance; so James and I decamped back to the auditorium in anticipation of a great show. In fact, my friend and fellow music-writer NIGEL FOSTER had seen the band the week before at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton; and described how they’d ‘blown the bleedin’ roof off!’  So we were expecting something good. Most of the audience were twice the age of the band – rock fans who’d have loved VATA at any time in the last 30 or 40 years; and still appreciative of good music.

Before long, Virgil And The Accelerators climbed on-stage to great applause – Virgil armed with the Gold Top –  and immediately launched into the opening number from the new Army Of Three album, ‘Take Me Higher’, with its  reverb’ed arpeggiated intro. It was a great start, and a mere taste of what was to come. The aptly named ‘Blow To The Head’ followed, hitting hard as the name suggests!  Its also from the new album, and is a great head-banger (reminiscent of Maiden) with fine solos and  good use of the wah-wah pedal.  Changing to his Firebird, Virgil continued to lead the assault with my favourite track from the first album: ‘Backstabber’. An excellent rendition it was too. A guitar change was again required (this time to his Black Beauty, aka ‘The Preacher’ with capo on the 3rd fret) for ‘Give It Up’ – again from the latest collection.

Virgil with Gold Top (Photo by JPC)

Virgil with Gold Top (Photo by JPC)

‘Racing With Life’ from The Radium was next up. With ‘The Preacher’ still in hand, Virgil used this song as a show-case for his astounding axemanship. A lengthy solo section has been added to this piece to facilitate this. With a jazzy bass-line from Jack; and tight drumming from Gabe; Virgil launched into a lead solo that was at times Bluesy; at times almost psychedelic; but at all times sublime, with a beautiful tone; and executed with consummate ease. Now there are some who call this type of thing self-indulgence, but personally I love to see it;  and so did everyone else as far as I could see – that’s why we were there!

The scope of VATA’s song-writing was evident in the next track: the thoughtful ‘Through The Night’. After the first five rockers, it was a fine contrast. It is a melodic rock song that has had an interesting reverb’ed intro added to the original. Unfortunately the FX pedal died soon into the tune, forcing the band to start again – but that’s Rock’n’Roll for you! Problem solved, the piece continued. I particularly enjoyed the quiet Bluesy solo section.

From the first album, they then played ’88’ which included an interesting Stones motif; and ‘Low Down And Dirty’ which always puts me in mind of BLACK SABBATH, and which also included a nod to ERIC CLAPTON  in the form of a few bars of the classic ‘Layla’ riff, during another very lengthy – but excellent – solo section. Good volume-swell technique on this one too. What struck me on this song too, was how tight the band are as a unit – completely in unison at all times during some complex rhythm changes.

Virgil then asked the audience to show their appreciation of Gabriel and Jack’s work. Surprisingly, neither did a solo themselves. Changing axe once again back to the Firebird, Virgil and the boys gave us a final song in the main set: ‘Free’ – another new one. To me this has something of the ambience of a Southern-Rock song; reminding me of MOLLY HATCHETT; and a little of some of JEFF HEALEY’s work too.  It included an ALLMAN BROS ‘Jessica’ motif nicely worked in to it too.  Its another melodic rocker, and went down a storm. The band left the stage to rapturous applause.

Virgil with Firebird 7 (Photo by JPC)

Virgil with Firebird 7 (Photo by JPC)

The only question now was: Would encore be required? Well, what do you think? The lads returned to the stage (Virgil armed with one of his Strats) for a final offering: an excellent cover of the classic  JIMI HENDRIX song ‘Are You Experienced?’ Phew! Only eight songs in over two hours unbroken; shows not only the length of some of the songs, but the remarkable energy of these fine young musicians. I was knackered just watching! I glanced at the roof – it was still there but  was showing serious signs of distress!

Virgil himself is a consummate axe-master. Not since I saw a young EDDIE VAN HALEN at the old RAINBOW THEATRE in London back in ’78, have I personally witnessed such a gob-smackingly remarkable string-smith at close-range.  It is clear that when Virgil plays solo, the  fret-board becomes an extension of his mind. Eyes closed, he is in another world – and as the audience witnessing his performance, we are privileged to see, and be privy to part of that world!  And he’s still only 22!

Skin-beater Gabriel was barely visible behind his kit, which was half surrounded by Perspex. This is to protect the ears – ‘My big Ride Cymbal is a real beast…’ he explained. The Perspex is  ‘… just there to improve sound on and off stage, and to offer a little protection to people’s ears’. Well, we may not have been able to see Gabe at work; but we sure as Hell knew he was there! He’s a powerhouse of precision percussion – reliable and unwavering in intensity for over two hours!

In my previous blog entry (#25), I said of Martin Turner, that ‘a busier bassist you’ll not see outside the Jazz world’. Well I take that back! Jack Alexander Timmis was exceptionally busy on his LAKLAND 5-string bass. I always admire bassists in 3-piece bands – the poor sods have to work really hard; especially when the guitarist switches from rhythm to lead. But JAT showed us that he was far more than equal to the task; performing his bass chops with confidence and precision; always there as a reliable back-bone for Virgil’s inventive, lengthy solos to refer back to.

As we’ve seen, each of the band members is highly proficient in their own chosen instrument; yet together they are more than the sum of their parts. On stage they are musically so tight that they become as one – highly practiced, and seemingly telepathic in anticipation of each-other’s next move.  They are not so much three musicians in the same group; rather, they are more like three facets of the same being: that entity is ‘VATA Band’ – an ‘Army Of Three’ about to conquer the Rock World!

My only disappointment was that they didn’t play ‘Silver-giver’; but that is an, oh so minor complaint! As James and I left the venue, we saw the band having a smoke outside the stage door. We offered our congratulations and after another brief chat, said our farewells. I understand that roof repairs are currently being carried out at Touchline Live Music, Hullbridge; and at the Boom Boom Club, Sutton. And that roof reinforcement works are taking place at every venue where VATA are due to play next! Go and see this band if you get a chance – if you love guitar-based rock, you’ll love it!  Once again, thanks to Dave K and his Mrs; and all the staff at the Touchline who made this evening possible. PTMQ

15. THE MOVE (+ THE GABRIELLA JONES BAND) at THE BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton, Surrey. Friday, 30th May 2014.

THE GABRILLA JONES BAND. Another great young band from Brum (Photo by PTMQ)

THE GABRILLA JONES BAND. Another good young band from Brum (Photo by PTMQ)

This was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in recent years – one of the best I’ve seen at the Boom Boom Club too. Having arrived at the club, cousin Charlie and myself were greeted at the door by none other than promoter PETE FEENSTRA himself for a genuinely warm welcome. Thanks Pete! It was obviously going to be a popular show as the place was filling up quite early – with middle-aged music punters (like Charlie and myself!)

First up was the support act THE GABRIELLA JONES BAND. Now, I was interested to see what they were all about as I didn’t have a clue, and hadn’t had time to research them. Perhaps I was expecting something like a 60s covers band; I didn’t know. I was pleasantly surprised to find however, that they were a young original band; and like THE MOVE (and many other great bands; too numerous to mention), hailed from the Birmingham area. Gabriella (armed with a Gibson Les Paul) + her boys, took to the stage and steamed into their opening number ‘Take It Literally’ – we did; and we enjoyed it! It was a good start. After a couple of numbers, she strapped on an acoustic and did her self-penned ‘Blue Hills And Purple Butterflies’ (Its on You tube). It was a pretty song and she played and sung it beautifully as a solo spot. She followed this with her own acoustic arrangement of the METALLICA hit, ‘Nothing Else Matters’. I was expecting the rest of the band to blast in for the finale of this classic (as in the original), but she did it totally alone; which was unexpected – and very good.

With reliable drumming from Tom Lewis; good steady bass playing from Reece Dillon; and competant guitar from Jon Moore (with what looked like an old Gretsch – I think); Gabriella performed a very good set of both original work, and covers. She has quite a presence on stage; and shows a confidence beyond what you’d expect for such a young artist (she told me afterwards that she was only recently 20). She fronts the band with a unique and feminine style; her delicate hands barely seemed to touch the guitar strings, yet she grasped barre chords with accuracy, and with no discernable mistakes – during both the quieter and the rockier songs. Her voice too is able to belt out the raunchy stuff as well as the sensitive – either way with a passion. For ‘Hold On’ she even sang without guitar at all; concentrating on the vocals. All in all, a fine performance from a young band with a potential to go far. Well done to them, and good luck for the future. Go and see them if you get a chance.

THE MOVE - California Men!  (Photo by PTMQ)

THE MOVE – A trip down Memory Lane and back up Blackberry Way! (Photo by PTMQ)

And now for the main course – one of the big, big names of the 60s music scene: THE MOVE. Now as a kid, just as I was begining to become aware of good music, I remember listening to the groups of the time on Radio 1; not realising at that tender age, that I was listening to some very ground-breaking sounds in the history of pop. All I knew was that I liked it. In particular the British bands of that memorable era (again, too numerous to name). But among them of course, was THE MOVE. Some of their songs have remained favourites of mine all these years: ‘Flowers In The Rain’; Fire Brigade’ and especially the iconic hit ‘Blackberry Way’. I’d never seen the band live before, so when I heard that they’d embarked upon their last ever tour, and were due to play THE BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton; I jumped at the chance (having missed them recently at THE TOUCHLINE CLUB in Essex).

Nowadays they consist of two original members: TREVOR BURTON on guitar; and BEV BEVAN on drums; and supplemented these days by PHIL TREE, bass; TONY KELSEY, guitar; and ABBY BRANT on keyboards (dubbed the ‘Movette’ by Burton!). Now there are those Move purists who would say that without the remarkable character and founder member ROY WOOD, (and perhaps other early members) they are not the same band and won’t be worth watching – but they would be very wrong; because this turned out to be a fantasticly enjoyable gig.

BEV BEVAN - anecdotes, quips and superb drumming! (Photo bt PTMQ)

BEV BEVAN – anecdotes, quips and superb drumming! (Photo bt PTMQ)

The lads climbed on stage to great applause from the audience, and immediately kicked off their set with their 1967 psychedelically inspired hit single ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’. This was a far rockier version than the original that I remembered, but it was excellent, and set the tone for the night. The cheers had barely died down when they gave us another old classic: ‘Fire Brigade’. Then Burton spoke briefly about their early residency at THE MARQUEE CLUB before they played a song reminiscent of that era: the R’n’R classic ‘Something Else’.

‘Flowers In The Rain’ was next. And Burton reminded us that it had the dubious honour of being the first record ever played on Radio 1 back in ’67! The band’s first ever single, ‘Night Of Fear’ (1966) soon followed. (To be honest I only remembered it when I heard it!) Keyboard player Abby Brant then sung the old ERMA FRANKLIN hit ‘Piece Of My Heart’ which the band apparently covered in the old days. She done it really well too. I didn’t realise (in my ignorance) that Roy Wood had penned the AMEN CORNER hit ‘Hello Suzie’; but he certainly did; and it was played next in The Move’s inimitable rock style.

The oft-covered Carole King song ‘Goin’ Back’ was up next; followed by ‘Wild Tiger Woman’; and ‘Brontosaurus’ (with a great slide guitar solo from Kelsey on his white Telecaster). Next was a great blues song which I didn’t know, called ‘Mercury Blues’; which (me being a big fan of the genre) I really enjoyed! Big hit ‘Do Ya’, was followed by a song which was never done by The Move, but by Burton’s own band: ‘Wild Young Thing’. Like everything they played, it went down really well.

Back in the late ’60s, The Move had an association with the legendary JIMI HENDRIX. So as a tribute to his genius, the band played a blinding version of ‘Hey Joe’; with superb lead guitar from Burton. Now lots of people do Hendrix covers, but you need to be good to do it well – Burton passed with flying colours – well done sir!

Well the show was nearly over, and they’d kept us waiting long enough for the two big ones! They stormed into their Rock’n’Roll classic ‘California Man’; and it hit us like a sledgehammer! But the highlight was the iconic ‘Blackberry Way’ – arguably their greatest hit (their only Number 1); and surely one of the most memorable songs of the late ’60s? An encore was demanded at this point; so without leaving the stage, they announced that they would play a song by another great Brummie musician and a great friend of theirs, STEVIE WINWOOD’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’.

Apart from the music, and their brilliant performance of it; another thing I really liked about this gig was the fact that there was plenty of pre-amble between songs, where Burton and Bevan gave us anecdotes and quips about their adventures on the road and about people and places they’d been. It was a comedy show at times! Both Burton and Bevan have a great rapport with their fans, and it is appreciated. The band had as good a time as the audience. All in all a brilliant concert. There are a few dates left on this, The Move’s final tour (including The Isle Of Wight Festival); so if you get a chance, I’d recommend going to see them – you won’t be disappointed! To be honest though, I can’t see them wanting to give this up, even though they are getting on a bit. My guess is that it won’t be the last we’ll see of the group – let’s hope I’m right!