Robert Ford takes to the stage…….over and over again

The toilets smell of damp mops. The building is Tardis like. The beer is in plastic glasses……..

Sunday afternoon in Hull had proved entertaining, a psycho-geographical ramble around the old town with it’s beautiful pubs, and abandoned venues where Pink Floyd etc etc played. A maze of a journey takes us from one pub to another. The early days of October are blessed with no rain and warm sunlight, things feel good. But still there are reminders of the grim impact of Tory rule, even in the European city of culture there are rough sleepers. Not as many as Manchester but numbers aren’t the issue, the fact there are people on the streets damns, once again,  the current administration.

The rock and roll moment is when we leave the Travelodge and are making our way to Hull old town when we spot Clare and Georgio behind Debenhams taking in the afternoon air. A brief conversation and see you later…….

Roll back two days. Dave, Clare and Georgio have been in Europe, with Patrizia occasional playing bass. I wonder how Levenshulme will feel to them after Spain/France. My journey from Eccles is aided by the new Ron S. Peno album which Cam Butler had sent earlier in the week, it’s not Died Pretty, but it’s pretty damn good. Add to that the new one from Go Go Sapien which makes me happy and brings a broad grin to my face with its quirky pop moves.  Somehow Aussie music feels much more legitimate than what we get fed by the so-called mainstream in the old country.

Fred’s Ale House is an excellent venue for this type of thing. A few days earlier SD and I had seen three excellent sets from Vocal Harum, CP Lee, and Barry “The Fish” Melton”.   I arrive early and wait for the bands to a load-in.  SD is at a wedding in Stoke so Victoria is helping out on the door. Dave, Clare, Malcolm and Georgio arrive and we catch up with a chat about cricket, Aussie music, and the aforementioned Mr Melton.  As the drum kit is assembled Dave strums a few chords on his acoustic,  I guess it’s “Mind Full Of Leather” from “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”, but it turns out it’s one of Malcolm’s songs. They have had two days rehearsals in Edinburgh and the soundcheck sounds tight. Time for a pizza before the proceedings commence.

An almost sold out crowd is treated to the raw enthusiasm of Uke Punk, the rebirth of Poppycock with a new line-up, and Graney & Moore’s pop-up band featuring Malcolm Ross on guitar and lap steel and Georgio Valentino on bass.  Bob is up from Northampton, Brad is down from the foothills of Ben Nevis, and for once I am running a gig which is nearly sold out. As it is with these things a combination of running the door and people wanting to “chat” to me means I don’t really get to see the bands properly but it sounds good to me when I do get a chance to listen.

Dave and Clare treat us to mixture of old and new with a good selection of songs from “Let’s Get Tight” and a respectable and well chosen series of classics from the back catalogue. Stand outs are a remarkable coupling of “Twilight of the Villain” and “Heroic Blues” which is Dave at his best, unwrapping his career before our eyes. The absolute highlight is a remarkable version of “Robert Ford” which is blessed by Clare’s sublime drumming and deft lap steel from Malcolm.  Even the usually hard to please Mr Moss is impressed.  An impromptu tongue in cheek couple of verses of “Show-business” is an added bonus in a busy set. We get another bonus of two of Malcolm’s songs – “Happy Boy” from the album of the same name, and “My Avenger” which I know from the “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” compilation. Both are excellent. Things conclude with a great version of  “Rock and Roll is where I hide” and punters amble out of the room with big smiles. The other Bob treats me to pint after the gig.

Saturday is mostly spent in the Marble Arch catching up with Bob and Sheila. Arrangements are made for the trip over to Hull and some fine ales are quaffed. Sunday sees a lunch time rendezvous in the Port Street Ale House which has some excellent beer on draft and is a loosener for the two hour journey. On a crowded train we decamp to first class and pay the extra as standing all the way to Hull is not recommended. A good bulk of the journey is taken up with a conversation about Alan Moore’s “Jerusalem” which Bob forensically dissects and of which I make a mental note to purchase once I return home.

The Travelodge on Pryme Street in Hull is modern and well appointed and excellent value for money. I contact Dave Hammond and we agree to meet in The George but as luck would have it we run into him and a couple of friends en route. The aforementioned tour of the city is both entertaining and informative.

Eventually we arrive at O’Rileys, the beer is basic so we opt for Guinness.  As mentioned at the start what appears to a detached house on the Beverley Road, from the outside, turns out to be much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The venue has a more “rock and roll” feel to it that Freds, not as big a crowd as Friday  but a very enthusiastic one. Great sound and impressive stage lighting is countered by a distressed floor and a peculiar odour in the toilets. The back of the venue is a gym with a boxing ring and a series of punch bags.

Loudhailer Electric Company kick off proceedings with their enthusiastic brand of rock into folk with Lou-Duffy Howard commanding the stage with her boundless energy and every-present smile.  They play some new songs and take an interesting sideways step into Talking Heads ’77 territory with a funky number. Stand-outs are a strident “Gypsey Race” and an epic closer with “Night Heron” with some excellent violin/guitar interplay.  Lou gives me a copy of the “Cursus” album.

 

I’m still getting to grips with the Canon Ixus I acquired for gigs like this but I manage to capture a few reasonable shots and a healthy handful of videos which I will eventually load up to You Tube. It’s no SLR but it’s better than lugging a bigger camera around when out and about.

I settle stage right, and aim to absorb uninterrupted what I missed on Friday. It’s exceptional.  The two Dr Alimantado references in the Graney/Moore canon make their way into the set. Twilight of a Villain and Heroic Blues are stunning, as they were on Friday.  Wolverine is a signature tune and I never tire of hearing it.  Malcolm plays “As Good As It Gets from the “Low Miffs” album which fits perfectly in with the Graney vibe and also has that unmistakable Edinburgh/Edwyn feel in its’ DNA.  The Godfrey Brothers are feted as Dave introduces a remarkable “A Boy Called Epic”. The set runs for nearly 90 minutes (Grateful Dead length Dave jokes at one point). The crowd loves it. Star Trek is mentioned by Lou in the LEC set (Voyager) and Dave in their set (TOS).  All of this is so effortless, so enjoyable, people in the crowd say “why haven’t we heard of this music before?”.

Monday is a taken up with a tour of some of the tourist bits of Hull, a strange vegetarian breakfast in the station cafe (olives and cucumbers mixed with beans, hash browns and and mushrooms oddly) and then a more comfortable ride back to Manchester. Bob will see it all again in London on Wednesday and Thursday, I am too busy with record label business unfortunately.

Over the two days the music played

Clinging To The Coast
Everything Was Legendary With Robert
A Boy Named Epic
Twilight Of a Villain
Heroic Blues
Happy Boy (Malcolm Ross)
You Need A Kleek Klook
All Our Friends Were Stars
Robert Ford On The Stage
My Avenger (Malcolm Ross)
We Need A Champion
Night Of The Wolverine
How Long Does The Raunch?
I Been Trendy
How Do You Get Out Of London
As Good As It Gets (Malcolm Ross)
Rock `n` Roll Is Where I Hide

As with 2016 Dave and Clare have in all likely-hood nabbed gig of the year…… hopefully they will be back again.

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The Best of 2016 # 2 – Gigs

Having spent quite a lot of the year in and out of medical facilities for one reason or another the number of gigs attended has been somewhat constrained but having said that much improved on 2015 when I spent a good deal of the time in a plaster cast. In the most part the gigs I did attend were all great. There were a couple of bad evenings caused in the first case by an idiotic club owner and in the second case by a less than perfect sound engineering job, it is not my habit to name names, so I won’t, all I would say is that bands deserve more.

Ones I sadly missed due to ill health and diary clashes

  • Robert Forster
  • The Triffids
  • Kim Salmon

Here are the highlights in no particular order, apart from the top four gigs.

  • Manchester Jazz Festival – just a general message to say it was much improved this year with some fascinating bands seen especially in the performance space in Manchester Central Library – the price of the beer in the Festival Village is obscene though!
  • Soft Machine at The Band on the Wall – OK so we sat in the bar for most of the second set drinking and chewing the fat about music but the first set was pretty memorable and I realised a long held ambition to see this band.
  • The Junta at Night and Day – kabuki, mime and beats with El Generallisimo cooking up a techno storm.
  • Aidan Cross & Johann Kloos, Poppycock, Taser Puppets and West Coast Sick Line at Dulcimer, Chorlton. A fun packed night with a storming set from the Westies and a slight hiatus while Mr Maxwell found his guitar.
  • Moff Skellington, Mr Mouse, Loop-aznavour at The Fenton Leeds – a remarkable evening with a sparse audience but excellent performances from all three protagonists only somewhat ruined by the inability to get out of Leeds via the motorway necessitating a circuitous journey home via Harrogate
  • The Eagle, again, for the debut of the much anticipated new band lead by Ian Moss Four Candles , Cambridge rockers, stripped down to acoustic duo  for the night, Bouquet of Dead Crows, all the way from Modena Italy Saint Lawrence Verge, and to close the night the ever excellent Poppycock. A rather special evening.
  • Sam SmithGenevieve L Walsh and The Madding Crowd at The Moston Miners Club – a great set from Sam, memorable poetry from Genevieve,  and an epic set from The Madding Crowd.
  • The Junta, Bouquet of Dead Crows, The Scissors and Kit B at the Eagle as part of Salford Music Festival. Barnstorming sets from all four bands – we need to do this again.
  • Taser Puppets, Poppycock, JD Meatyard and West Coast Sick Line as part of Salford Musical Festival also at The Eagle – one of our most successful nights with a good crowd, fine performances, and a stellar set from Mr Meatyard.
  • Blaney album launch at Pacifica Cantonese. A great album and a memorable album launch with the added bonus of it being five minutes from where I live. It’s been a good year for Ed and he deserves the support he is getting at the moment

and the top four, who all happen to be Australian for some strange reason……

4.

The Necks live at the Band on the Wall – a special performance from an amazing trio of musicians. Unique and breath-taking music bereft of ego and full of invention.

3.

Harry Howard and the NDE with Poppycock at The Eagle – exploding keyboards and horrendous traffic conspired against us but Poppycock were the best I have seen them all year and Harry and co were exceptional given they had a stand in rhythm section with only a couple of days rehearsal.

2.

Dave Graney and Poppycock & Franco Bandini at the Eagle – a long held desire to catch Dave and Clare live was at long last realised. Most of the band were full of germs but still managed to deliver a set packed with classic tunes from across the Graney songbook. The added bonus of seeing Malcolm Ross play the guitar as well.

and my gig of the year….

1.

Dave Graney at the Betsey Trotwood, London – a memorable journey to the capital despite a dodgy knee. A pleasant afternoon drinking with Bob and Jeff in some fine ale houses. A fantastic set from Dave, Clare, Stu and Malcolm covering even more of the Graney songbook topped off by a great tribute to Prince.

DG 2 BT

How can you get out of London?

Friday afternoon, golly gee……

London town is as hot as Hades compared to the peoples republic of Eccles at 8am that morning. I’m just off the 13:15 Pendolino from Manchester Piccadilly and it’s a slow, and warm, walk from Euston to the Travelodge on Kings Cross Road. I’d forgotten how busy London is, so many people on the pavements, it has been a few years since I have been this far south, you have to be agile negotiating all these bodies. So i’m pleased to get onto the quieter hotel strewn side ways of Argyle and Swinton Streets, there’s always a Salford connection wherever you go (*), and a short-cut to the cool, albeit small, hotel room. The traffic is bad, horns honking, bikes, both motor and pedal, zipping in and out and around. Booking in takes forever, the hotel is full of northern voices, it’s almost like being at home. A quick shower, a fresh T Shirt and then on the mobile to Bob “South” to find out where the Northampton contingent is at. They are at the Craft Beer House but are leaving shortly for the Jerusalem Tavern. Good, it’s hot and I need a beer.

It’s a 20 minute walk to the aforementioned establishment which takes me past the looming Mount Pleasant Mail Centre, several bistros and the slightly fading decadence of the streets of Kings Cross and Clerkenwell. It hits me i’ve walked by at least five rough sleepers in my perambulations from Euston. Lets hope Sadiq Khan’s election as Mayor of London can begin to tackle this.  I’ve noticed more and more rough sleepers in central Manchester lately as well. Mister Cameron says he’s dealing with the Housing Crisis…..but you can’t believe everything, or indeed anything he says, can you?

The Jerusalem Tavern is delightful, I am advised it is in the Good Beer Guide, and Google says it’s “a 1990s pub in a 1720 building with a facsimile 18th-century interior”, can one get by with an exquisite interior I wonder to myself (**). Bob and Jeff are suitably ensconced and a delicious pint of St Peter Ale is acquired for me.  We catch up on several matters, indulge in another round of ale, and then head up to The Crown Tavern for something to eat. A nice plate of Fish and Chips (required Friday food for a Catholic chap) and another pint in the pub which appears to have a fake lawn on the door to the gents. It’s getting near 7ish and the pubs are getting busy.  People aren’t inside the pubs though, they have spilled out onto the streets. A further stop off at The Gunmakers, which only has one ale on, but it’s a good one, and where Bob tells me there is a hairdressers upstairs, and it’s trendy. We chat about village drug dealing scallies,  Josef K and Harmonia amongst other things.

And so over to the Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road to see Dave Graney and the mistLY for the last gig in a five week European Tour. Dave, Clare Moore, Stu Thomas and Malcolm Ross(***) are tucking into a pre-gig meal in the cosy pub. We get one last beer in, have a brief chat with Clare, and then make our way down to the basement venue. I had thought the Eagle (****) was small, but this place is far more compact. It’s full, and very warm. There are a few rock and roll types in tonight. Bob points out that Louis Vause, who played piano on the “I Was The Hunter And I Was The Prey” album, is in the room.

DG 2 BT

 

9:15pm and they are on.

Starting with the autobiographical “We Don’t Belong to Anybody” it’s just Dave, Clare and Stu kicking things off, Malcolm stands at the right watching on. It’s tight. it’s crisp, the sound is amazing, it’s fun, I can’t stop smiling. Dave is the consummate showman, he has a great band, and over the next two hours, with a fifteen minute break, we are treated to a marvellous journey through the “30 Year” back catalogue .

The two Moodists tunes that had been delivered in Salford three weeks ago are there. I was hoping “Chevrolet Rise” might make an appearance but the louche funk-punk of “Frankies Negative” and the acerbic post-punk of “Chad’s Car” make up for that omission. Bob and Jeff had regaled me earlier in the afternoon of that Fall gig where The Moodists were the support and where Dave had an immediate impact on the pair of them (8th December 1983 and two miles to the north west at the Electric Circus for the Fallatalists amongst you).

Coral Snakes tunes also get a good airing including “I’ve Got Myself A Beautiful Nightmare” , “Your Just Too Hip Baby” and the extended version of “Night of the Wolverine” (version number 4 I think with the slowed down memorable coda), plus the usual closer, the breathtaking “Rock and Roll Is Where I Hide”. Dave Graney Show, Lurid Yellow Mist and MistLY tunes all get exposure with “Death By A Thousand Sucks”, “Flash In The Pantz” and a stunning “We Need A Champion” which is introduced with some choice words about Australian politicians. The most recent “solo” album Fearful Wiggings is represented by the apposite “How Can You Get Out Of London” and some interesting comments about Grant McLennan are delivered (it was the tenth anniversary of his death on the date) before laying into Robert Forster , with  tongue firmly in the cheek , via “Everything Was Legendary With Robert”. Two of the latest set of singles “I’m a Good Hater” and “The Deadest Place I Ever Died In” are delivered with the latter being transformed into a very funky little beast in a live setting. I’m sure there were other songs played but my memory is failing me. No doubt Bob will have jotted down the full set list and I can append them to this later on.

Clare is inspirational throughout the gig, she has to be one the best drummers i’ve seen,.moving from tasteful jazzy licks, via funk, into driven rock rhythms. Stu is a stunning bass player, moving through a range of styles with ease. Malcolm adds some exceptional colour to the tunes, whether it be some tasteful wah-wah, spidery lead lines, our jagged post-punk chords. Dave is slick, hip and cool, you wouldn’t want it any other way. The vocal harmonies are spot on. The band is hypnotic. The inter-song banter is irreverent, funny and draws the crowd into Graney world. Dave makes an off-colour remark and Clare gives him the hard stare. It’s just perfect.

The encore is a respectful homage to the recently deceased Prince with Stu taking the lead vocals on a bravura cover of “Sign O’ The Times”. Unexpected and quite special.

And so it’s over. I’d had to move several small mountains to get there, but it was worth it. I don’t go to London that often but sometimes you have to make the effort. I’d enjoyed the Salford gig a lot but my mind was on running the thing and other background stuff so it perhaps didn’t have the impact of this gig. London was something special.

It had been a long day, a quick goodbye to Dave, then Bob and Jeff and then back to the hotel to get ready for an early journey back in the morning. A memorable trip, I wanted to be there, and I wanted to travel.

Hopefully they’ll be back again, soon.

Get a whiff of that antipodean breeze……..

EXPLANATORY NOTES

(*) Swinton is one of the districts of Salford

(**) From the lyrics of the Coral Snakes tune “Dandies Are Never Unbuttoned”

(***) Former Josef K, Aztec Camera and Orange Juice guitarist depping for Stuart Perera on this tour. Malcolm was a member of the Moodists and the Coral Snakes

(****) The venue in Salford where the band played in April – see review here

DG5 BT

 

 

 

The Best Dressed Chicken In Town

Dave Graney has been written about, at some length, on this blog over the years, so regular readers will know of my admiration for his work. Indeed, I do see it as a bit of a crusade on my part to get his extensive back catalogue known about, and shared with other like minded music loving souls out there. In light of my ramblings, and regular features on podcasts and radio broadcasts, there has been contact between he and I over recent years. So, when he advised me he was coming over to the UK to play at All Tomorrows Parties and asked could there be the chance of a gig in the Manchester area I was, of course, keen to do something. The chance to actually see Dave play live in this part of the world is rare,  so a few messages were interchanged and the wonderful Una Baines made it happen.

dg Eagle 1

Another by-product of the trip was the chance of a session on Radio 6 with Marc Riley and through the sterling work of Ian “Moet” Moss this was also put in place. Dave had played two nights in Scotland the preceding week and arrived in Manchester, and at Salford Quays more accurately,with the ever present Clare Moore and Stu Thomas, and, special guest, Malcolm Ross, to play three songs in session with Marc. A nice aperitif for what was to follow on the Thursday night in Salford.

The Eagle Inn nestles just of the Inner Relief Route between Manchester and Salford, in an industrial area. The pubs’ proximity to the Blueprint Recording Studios makes it a haven for post recording session musicians wanting to whet their whistle with a beer before heading home. It is a relatively recent edition to the selection of well run music venues (alongside Gullivers and The Castle) and it is one of the best small venues on the fringes of the city centre area. It seemed to be the perfect place for an intimate gig with Dave Graney and the mistLY.  The unique concert room ,which is essentially is a hollowed out Victorian terraced house, adding to the experience.

With regular band member Stu Perrera back in Australia old sparring partner Malcolm Ross (Josef K,  Orange Juice, Aztec Camera)  was brought into the band to create the essential second guitar sound which makes the mistLY band so vital.  Malcolm’s history with The Moodists and the early line-up of the Coral Snakes allowed for a set-list which covered most of Dave’s career.

dg Eagle 2

But i’m getting ahead of myself. The evening kicked off with a solo set from Franco Bandini. On acoustic guitar and piano Franco worked through his recent EP release on German Shepherd Records, a cover, and a couple of newer songs. Franco’s intense delivery and passionate tunes were received well by the crowd. He is working on parallel material at the moment and news of his forthcoming ventures will be shared in due course.

Having seen Poppycock the Saturday before at Dulcimer in Chorlton I knew what to expect. Once again they did not disappoint. The eight strong line-up worked its way through recent material, the latest single,  tracks from The Fates album, and an excellent cover  of Lou Reeds “There Is No Time”(from the New York album). The collective gets increasingly stronger with, notably, excellent vocal performances, and memorable tunes. The beauty of the band is their mix of stripped back VU style rock with a traditional music edge running alongside.  If you are in the Greater Manchester area and you have  not seen them live yet I suggest you ought to go out of your way to catch them.

dg Eagle 3

On stage promptly at 10pm the incredibly dapper Dave Graney lead us through an hour and fifteen minutes of his best material. His assured and witty delivery, and a rhythm section with a clear telepathic understanding was wonderful to witness live, the added bonus was the unique opportunity to see Malcolm Ross working with the band. With two Moodists songs “Chad’s Car” and “Frankies Negative”, a number of Coral Snakes tunes, including a personal favourite “I Got Myself A Beautiful Nightmare” and a spine tingling “Night of the Wolverine”, plus a good selection of Dave’s “solo” material including a sultry “Body Snatcher Blues”, “Death By A Thousand Sucks”, the excellent “Everything Was Legendary With Robert” from the “Fearful Wiggings” album, and recent single “I’m A Good Hater”, Graney fans were treated to a special evening. Closing song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Where I Hide” and encore “You’re Just Too Hip, Baby”, a special request for Una, brought out the best in the band with two classic Graney compositions closing a very special evening.

Those fortunate enough to be attending ATP in Prestatyn are in for a treat. After that Dave and the band  are off to France for a run of gigs, then Amsterdam, and then back to the UK a couple of nights at the Betsey Trotwood in London, before heading home to Melbourne. If you get the chance to catch any of these gigs I suggest you make the effort.

Thanks to Dave, Clare, Stu, Malcolm, Una, Sam and Moet for making this happen.