Tag Archives: Virgil and the Accelerators

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

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90. THE RIVER CHICKENS “Coming Through” (EP) (2013)

(Photo: River Chickens)

The EP’s opened out sleeve artwork. (Photo: River Chickens)

A few weeks ago when my son and I interviewed Virgil And The Accelerators before their superb gig at Touchline Live Music, Essex (see my review #83); we met their new bass player Joel Wildgoose. He is also guitarist and vocalist with The River Chickens. and he handed me a copy of their EP ‘Coming Through’ for review.

Its a five track EP of original songs, all penned by the band themselves – and its very good indeed. Its a couple of years old or more now, so I won’t do a full review, but I must say that every track is a good’n. I very much like the obligatory slow, thoughtful song ‘Crazy Town’; but I particularly like ‘Alley Cat Antics’. This is a well constructed rocker, with twin harmonised lead guitars (a la Wishbone / Lizzy), great dual vocals, and superb solo. Generally a great piece of rock music.

The CD comes in a simple card slip-case, with some basic info on the songs and the band; and it has an odd, but intriguing cover illustration. If you’re up for a short, sharp dose of good quality Blues-Rock, then this EP is worth getting hold of for your collection. Recommended. PTMQ

Here’s a link to the band’s Face Book page….

Here is the band performing ‘Alley Cat Antics’…..

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/

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

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