Sic Transit Gloria Hamsters

Sunday

Not a day for normally venturing out into the world of rock and roll but it’s Ian Keith Moss’s 60th birthday party and he has put a musical spectacular on in Ashton under Lyne  by way of celebration so we can’t really miss this one can we?

I meet SD in the Eccles Cross for a “loosener” and then we hop on the tram. Fortunately the Metrolink system takes us more or less door to door. It’s a 55 minute journey so it gives me and Mr Doyle time to catch up on things and do some forward planning for future gigs.  There’s also a chance to look out at the surrounding areas. I recommend people take the Ashton line as it’s a good psycho- political-geographical journey which emphasises the embourgeiosement of  Manchester city centre and juxtaposes it with the clear lack of investment in the doughnut around the heart of the metropolis. Once you have sailed past the chrome and glass of the core and the  glittering spires of the “emptyhad” complex you begin to see the stark reality of life in the suburban towns. It’s like stepping back 40 years to boarded up shops, tired streets and grim vistas. The only glimpse that we are in 2017 is the shiny metrolink stops/transport interchanges and the occasional Aldi (substitute cheap supermarket chain of your choice).

The tram stop is about 10 minutes away from the venue and we scout out potential eating areas on the way. The venue is The Witchwood, a concert room next to a pub, that has seen many a band over the years but at the moment, looking at the posters inside, seems to cater for any number of tribute bands, a microcosm for the state of the music scene perhaps?

There is an air of mild panic in the air when we arrive. Bands have not turned up for soundchecks and it eventually turns out that tAngerine cAt have broken down in Wales so will not be able to make the gig. I settle on small bottles of Budweiser for the afternoon as it’s going to be a long gig with many bands.

Matters commence with a rare appearance of 50% of the Prick Jaggers with Patriq accompanied on this occasion by the birthday boy in an exemplary performance of the legendary “Lou Reeds Supper Club”.

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The nearly Prick Jaggers -Picture by Victoria Egan

Quick phone calls have facilitated a substitute for the absent tAngerine cAt and Dylan Cosmic Blue arrives to provide a four song set of some covers and a couple of his own tunes. He gives an assured performance and warrants further investigation at some future point.

The end of the Hamsters as a live entity is built around four songs – the band is represented by Mr Moss, Mr Williams, and Mr Rowlinson with the redoutable Mr Peak filling in on drums.  They have had one rehearsal but they still manage to perform a brand new song (well a reworking of John Joanne) and conclude with the appropriate “Stupid Songs”. I feel a slight tinge of sadness that it is all over and head to the bar for some more Dr Budweisers patent laughing medicine. And so passes the glory that was the Hamsters! We will never see their like again.

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Mr Doyle photobombs the Hamsters – Photo by Victoria Egan

The ex-Fall band members spotting game is commenced and we reach a reasonable score of three with Ms Baines, Ms Adamson and Mr Archer in the house. Perhaps more notable is that three of the four horsemen of the radio apocalypse are in the building with the fourth member due shortly.  Poppycock cannot play for reasons far to complicated to go into so their slot is taken by poetry readings from Una Baines and Louise Woodcont. Next up we have the rather marvellous Factory Acts who coincidentally played a similar gig at the Bank Top Tavern on Ian’s Birthday a few years back. They have come on in leaps and bounds since then of course. Of particular importance is Susan’s growing stage confidence with her hand gestures and delivery adding something new and exciting to the mix. The stunning “AWG” is delivered with some venom and the closing “Leave The World To Us” has chart hit written all over it, if only the music industry had any common sense. One of the best, if not the best, Salford based band at the moment.

Factory Acts
Factory Acts – Photo by Victoria Egan

Back out to the beer garden for more “Bud” and a growing sense that I need to have something to eat before the blood alcohol levels get too excessive. So it’s an executive decision to miss part of the Four Candles set while I grab a rather delicious mushroom pizza from a local takeaway. I catch the opening “Horse”, I miss “Lenny Bruce”  and more, while I’m getting the pizza, but i’m back for the exceptional “I Hate Basket Weaving”.  I’ve seen them before, and I will definitely see them again, so it’s not a great wrench having missed a portion of the show. They are Ian’s best band to date and they get better and better. One punter opines “I don’t normally like prog rock but I like this….” which makes me chuckle , they certainly transcend genres and deliver something that the scene in Greater Mancunia needs which is something new and different.

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Four Candles – Photo by Victoria Egan

More beer – fortunately now being absorbed by the pizza, and I settle myself at the back of the room near the sound desk as my tired old legs are feeling their age. I haven’t seen Ill for some time and certainly not since they have brought Tamsin Middleton into their ranks. The perfect band to end the day, a few keyboard problems slightly disturb the flow, but a stellar performance was delivered with stunning rhythms from Whitney and Fiona being the stand out part of the Ill experience. Tamsin’s guitar adds a new edge to the sound as the power through an excellent set with singles “Space Dick” and “Kremlin” whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Another band that delivers a unique sound, Manchester should be rightly proud of what it has to offer at the moment in terms of musical diversity.

Tamsin and Whitney
Tamsin and Whitney of Ill – Photo by Matt Davies

And so it’s all over by 8pm. A wonderful days music and a more than perfect way to celebrate the milestone birthday of one of the key, but unsung, figures in the musical firmament of this metropolis.

Thanks to the fourth horseman for the lift home.

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A State Of Independents

During the latter months of 2015 JD Meatyard put together a short tour of the UK  which brought together several like-minded individuals to play in smallish venues.

One of the venues was The Crescent in Salford and on 31st October what has been described as an exceptional evening of music was delivered. The line-up included JD Meatyard, Cannonball Statman, Hamsters, Tamsin A and Mick Conroy as the MC with poetry interludes.

Fortunately, for those who missed the gig, three of the sets from the evening are being released by German Shepherd Records.

The Hamsters set includes a previously unreleased song, “Basically Johnny Moped”, a couple of tracks from their new EP “Branches”, the recent single “4VT” and a handful of classic tunes from the back catalogue. Lead Singer Moet was dreadfully ill on the night in question and played in his dressing gown but still managed to deliver a full on performance. This is the band at its’ best, rollicking punk rock with a lot of gusto.

Cannonball Statman comes from Brooklyn, New York and delivers a unique blend of speed of light vocalising with an amazing guitar technique which varies between scratchy anti-folk and stunning sonic dexterity. His songs are intense, oblique, and teetering on the edge of madness. The stand-out track “Carlos Is On Fire (and Alicia doesn’t know) is five minutes of complex word play which feels like something Paul Auster would have written in the New York Trilogy. One of the best, and most unique, sets of music I have heard all year. Check out more of Cannonball’s work at cannonballstatman.bandcamp.com.

JD Meatyard has had three excellent albums released on Probe Plus, and is well known from his work with Calvin Party. His set on the evening was a mix of expletive drenched polemic, riotous humour, mutant blues and heart rending ballads. Capturing JD in a live situation is a bonus as he delivers his excellent tunes with intensity and emotion. No one is safe from his seasoned eye and sharp tongue including Politicians, Bankers, and Tory voters from Sheffield. Meatyard fans will love it, those who haven’t heard his work  before will be converted.

All three albums are available for pre-order now from Bandcamp and a wide range of other digital outlets and will be fully released on December 21st.

JDM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gene, Vince and David

The first ever single by Hamsters is released via German Shepherd Records on Friday 10th April 2015.

The subject matter is retro rocker Vince Taylor, who was inspired by Gene Vincent and in turn inspired David Bowie to create Ziggy Stardust. It comprises 3:12 of blues soaked punk with the trademark bellicose vocal from Ian “Moet” Moss.

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For those not in the know Hamsters formed in 1980 “as a reaction against the raincoat clad pseuds of Manchester, whose dreadful negative tuneless drones were being given space in all the live music venues around the city. A young latter day punk rock crowd embraced them for their unquestionable ‘ don’t care what you think ‘ attitude, while being puzzled by the primitive but ambitious sound collages the band created. The art-rock crowd of City Life reading chin strokers derided them as yobs , rude and very crude.”

As a band they didn’t fit in , they stood apart from a post-punk scene which was quickly being hamstrung by it’s own success. Rather than this being a weakness it became the Hamsters strength , they had no one to pander to and so did what they pleased, what came natural. Their reputation spread , wildly differing opinions of their merits were heard , but they were on people’s lips. They gained a deserved but highly exaggerated reputation for being trouble magnets and drew bans from many venues , but as doors were being slammed in their faces other doors opened , high profile gigs with the likes of Joy Division , The Fall and Orange Juice were played , guest spots around the country on the ‘ Weird Tales tour’ with The Mob , Androids of Mu, Astronauts and Zounds spread the word nationwide. Perhaps success eluded them because of either a dogged refusal to sign to the Factory label or the failure to secure a John Peel session – Peel felt that there was something “too dark and dangerous” about the band.

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Some recordings were made, and over the years have been made available both in the UK and USA (see the German Shepherd compilation Bloody Hell!) but a mere 20 months after forming the Hamsters split, teetring on the edge of breaking into the big time.

So there was never an actual  Hamsters single until now.  After many attempts to revisit the band over they years they most recently reformed in November 2014 to play live it was decided to write some new material rather than become a covers band of their past glories.  A week before the first gig at the Crescent, Salford as part of the German Shepherd live weekend , 4VT was written and opened the set that momentous evening,

Hamsters

Now it’s been taken into Simon ‘ Ding’ Archers 6 db studio in Salford , belted out with gusto and without further ado is presented to the world at large. With another single in the pipeline and gigs lined up it’s going to be a busy spring and summer for Hamsters.

Hamsters are

Damien Hughes , drums and guitar
Nigel Blinston , guitar and whistle
Jon Rowlinson , bass and vocals
Ian Moss , vocals
Stephen Middlehurst & Bob Williams – Spirit and inspiration

Forthcoming Gigs

11th April – The Crescent Salford

24th April – Dulcimer, Chorlton, Manchester