I Just Want Room To Live

You know we just might well be at the beginning of something rather special here.

By here I mean Salford, or more specifically The Crescent Pub, on The Crescent (naturally). For those of you who don’t know the place it perches on the edge of the A6 going into (or out of) Manchester overlooking the loop in the River Irwell. It’s where Marx and Engels sat and chatted about life, politics and other important things many years ago, and it is where a long awaited venue for cutting edge music is emerging.

Tony Thornborough and Steve Nicholson
Tony Thornborough and Steve Nicholson

Tony Thornborough, Steve Nicholson, Jim Watts and Gerry the landlord are a formidable partnership. They have taken the empty shell of the previous concert room, have completely turned it round, literally speaking, the stage is at the other end! But more importantly there is a decent sound system and mixer, a sound engineer in Jim Watts who knows what he wants and knows how to get it, and a promoter in Tony Thornborough, who together with his side-kick Steve Nicholson, with the vision to actually create a venue that works for the musicians and audience. Add to that ambitious plans to create a bar area in the concert room, open up the rear to the beer garden and make the whole thing more accessible and user friendly and you have all of the ingredients for a very bright future.

Jim Watts and SD
Jim Watts and SD

The concept is relatively simple and the ingredients that make it work are so easily realised. Drum Kit, bass and guitar amps, and microphones are provided on site, the bands will not have to pay to play, and the pub has an excellent range of quality beverages, and food, at reasonable prices. It’s a five minute bus ride out of central Manchester, walking distance from Salford Central and Salford Crescent rail stations, and a fifteen minute walk from Deansgate if you are feeling healthy. If you are in the car there is ample parking around the back of the venue.

Patriq Gannon - The Prick Jaggers
Patriq Gannon – The Prick Jaggers

The two nights that German Shepherd records put on there recently are testament to the current developing success of the venue and it’s huge potential to become the premier small gig venue in Salford and more importantly the conurbation core/city centre. Bands who haven’t quite reached the audience capacity to fill the nearby Islington Mill, or some of the medium sized venues in the city centre now have a place where they can play, and in most cases, get paid.

The Junta
The Junta

Last Friday (5th December) saw the first of two nights of German Shepherd artists and some special guests playing at The Crescent.  John “The Junta” Montague kicked things off with a superb set of dance orientated electronica featuring music from his album Art of Glass. John’s ability to fuse 70s/80s electronica with current dance trends creates a maelstrom of laminal synthesis and funky beats. Standouts were the rich textures of “Orca” and the spooky “Devil”. The revelation was the closing tune where “Monty” demonstrated he has a fine singing voice.

Johann Kloos
Johann Kloos

Johann Kloos  was up next with a selection of his psychedelic pop and rock nuggets. For someone who had not played a gig for a year he was in fine fettle rattling through a mixture of melodic songs, psych-punk, and eerie electronica. Variety is the key word in Johann’s music and he amply demonstrated his talent across a range of styles and sounds,

Susan from Factory Acts
Susan from Factory Acts

The ever stunning Factory Acts improve each time I see them. With sure fire favourites like “Thirst” from the new EP, the enviable majesty of Susan’s voice and keyboards, and Matt’s pungent bass and beats, makes for one the most exciting live experiences in the Greater Manchester area at the moment.  The ever excellent “American’s With Guns” needs to be recorded soon and a stunning cover of Grinderman’s “No Pussy Blues” had Susan exorcising her inner Nick Cave. If you haven’t caught them live yet then I suggest you do at the next available opportunity.

The Hamsters
The Hamsters

Unfortunately it was getting late by now which meant I missed the last act of the evening, Una Baines excellent Poppycock, but I am advised they delivered a wonderful set. However I was able to hang around long enough to witness the return of the legendary Hamsters. With his recent departure from Kill Pretty Moet has decided to bring back the band where he feels “the most comfortable”. Nigel Blacklock, Jon Rowlinson and Damien Hughes provided a brutal and unforgiving sound to back up a bellicose Mr Morse. The band kicked off with a brand new tune, a homage to Vince Taylor, and powered through a series of classic Hamster tunes from across the years concluding with a slightly ramshackle but delightful reading of “Drowning” with guest appearances from Lucy Power and Una Baines.

A Teenage Propshaft
A Teenage Propshaft

Before The Hamsters were let loose on the world once more we had the debut performance of The Teenage Propshafts with Monty guesting on bass and Moet on Zen keyboards. Mr Doyle’s energetic performance of “Salford Streets” proved very popular with the crowd and no doubt is a prelude of more output from this artist.

Rob – The Prick Jaggers

Saturday was a more relaxed affair with the more eclectic and esoteric artists on the German Shepherd roster getting an outing. The evening kicked off with a short set from the excellent The Prick Jaggers  who were charming, self-effacing, funny and down right entertaining.  Patriq and Rob were in fine form and I look forward to hearing them live again.

Rose Niland and Mark Corrin
Rose Niland and Mark Corrin

Rose Nilandably supported by Mark Corrin, was spectacular, her unique and compelling vocal style and her, sometimes, otherworldly music transports the listener to dusty Moroccan streets via chill Scandanavian  landscapes to the heart of the blues. Her attention to detail and stage make-up demonstrates that this is artist who demands to be heard and wants to create a lasting impression. One of my missions in the next twelve months is to try and get this exceptional artist a much wider audience.

Modal Roberts
Modal Roberts

And then the force of nature that is Modal RobertsAgain an artist that puts considerable effort into his stage presentation,  this evening Modal appeared to channelling a heady combination of Jack Sparrow and Q from Star Trek The Next Generation, and towards the end of the set, either Marilyn Monroe or Olive from On The Buses,  at least in visual terms. Musically we got the delightfully rude “Full Sore”, a unique rendition of Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire”, a great version of “Derbyshire” and a chilling reading of “Brown” plus a selection of other tunes from his vast repertoire. Marvellous and slightly unhinged.

Aidan Cross
Aidan Cross

Due to illness the ever excellent West Coast Sick Line were unable to appear and the reliable Aidan Cross stood in. Playing a selection of Bacillus songs plus some new material Aidan’s rich voice complimented the stripped down sound of his acoustic guitar,  the highlight being the wonderful “When Strangers Step in the Bar”. He is working on new material at the moment and the newer songs in the set sounded very good indeed.


And finally, and my personal favourite of the weekend, the brilliant Loop-aznavour.  I was expecting him to be good having heard a lot of his material, he far exceeded my expectations. His mastery of the theremin is wonderful, his songs are memorable and his stage delivery is stunning, channelling anger, frustration and anarchy into a ferocious bundle of energy. With Moet guesting on the marvellous “Justin Beiber Must Die” this was a wonderful way to conclude two nights of genuinely unique music.

Material from most of these artists can be found at the German Shepherd Bandcamp site.

Chatting with Tony Thornborough over the two nights he was keen to describe his vision and expectations for The Crescent as a venue. The ambition and passion to create a performance space for artists is strong and the facilities that are being put in place will eventually create an unenviable live music location. German Shepherd plan to repeat the recent experience again in the new year in partnership with Tony, Steve and Jim. Something I am particularly looking forward to.

Not a joke anymore……

The Hamsters

Bloody Hell!

German Shepherd

30th May 2014


As I have written elsewhere, somewhere or another, this is not the band on Wikipedia from Southend On Sea that does Hendrix covers – this is in fact one of the most important bands to come out of the Manchester Music Scene in the late 70s. The detailed, and very interesting, history of the band is eminently captured by Stephen Dobson in his biography of Ian Moss – The Man Who Killed The Hamsters, so I recommend that you acquire said book as it covers, in some detail, the formation, and several splits and reformations, of the band.  However simply put, and as a brief introduction, three young lads, and a restless merry go round of bass players,  from the eastern reaches of the Manchester conurbation decided to form a band that would challenge the conventions of the music scene, would ditch musical ability as a presumption of being able to, or indeed allowed to perform, and would rattle an awful lot of cages in doing so.

What you have here is a selected anthology of the bands output, it is not a complete history. It includes – the original recordings with Grant Showbiz for an album that never materialised; the intervening work with off-shoot band The Nightwatch Men; a radio session; two songs from the penultimate gig, and “versions” of Hamsters tunes by Sicknurse and Fall Fan Dave. The album closes with a lengthy spoken word piece by Steven Middlehurst – one of the bands founders and drummer/vocalist. The original recordings have been rescued from their somewhat parless state, mended, fettled and re-mastered, where possible (some tracks are decidely lo-fi) to create the most comprehensive collection of Hamsters related material all in one place.

Having had the pleasure of being at three of the bands final gigs I can attest to their unique approach to rock and roll and performance. It is of some regret that I never get to see them in the early days as the reviews, views and recollections all speak highly of the anarchic heart of their work. Most notable I think is the revelation that the band were deemed by John Peel too dark and disturbing to consider for a session, or indeed radio play.

As for the music – well you need to decide for yourself. If I was to be pressed to describe it I would say it veers between the cack-handed and the totally exceptional – sometimes within one song. It ignores the accepted norms of the “rock” (or indeed punk) world and gleefully explores areas and avenues that virtuoso’s and musos would have had trained and practised out of them. It says more about the original spirit of punk than any leather clad desperado with spikey hair ever could do. Someone once said that they hung somewhere between The Fall and DAF – I can see that. My best comparator I think is from the literary world – for me the band nestle somewhat haphazardly between Kurt Vonnegut,  William Burroughs , Alan Bennett and Tony Warren.

With 25 tracks and over 90 minutes of music this is an excellent selection and a fitting last word on the strange and wonderful world of The Hamsters.

Available from Friday May 30th here


(Salford) Music Scene Radio Show – June 5th 2012

On this weeks show…..listen here

1 Easter Damp Patch Innocence Man
2 Lauren Housley My Baby Cry One Step Closer
3 The Lazy Maybees Old Ghost Lining Up Spoons
4 The Ascension Blood Upon The Rose Blood Upon The Rose
5 The Black Paths Our North Is Rising Ibiza and the Hangover
6 Twisted Hand Dawning The 1982 Masters
7 The Hamsters Stupid Songs The Disparate Cogniscienti
8 Kill Pretty Stupid Club In 80 Days
9 Danny Short Head in the Sand Remnants
10 Neuron No Limonchik Little Lemon EP
11 Glass Jungle Stay the Same Crystal Lies
12 Periscope Diggin You Out Demo
13 Adesire 60s Film Adesire A History 1980-3
14 The Fall Slags, Slates Etc Slates

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

Where : The Crescent, Salford

When : 30th July 2011

Who : Baby Strange, The Hamsters, The Blimp

I have had a bit of writers block over the last week (blame the heat, the rain and other distractions) – so this took a bit of effort to get out …..any way here we go again….

Try as I might to think of a better evening that I have had in a long while I cannot…….pleasant company, good beer, people dressed up in strange costumes pushing a pram around and three great bands.  Got there reasonably early and had a great chin-wag with Fall Fan Dave and Stephen Doyle over a few pints of amber nectar before wandering into the concert room.

Baby Strange (please note the smoke - see below)

“Baby Strange” have only been in existence since the beginning of the year and promise good things.  Their demo EP is very good indeed, especially the rather catchy “Fair is Fair”- and I would have liked to stay for some more of their music but it was exceptionally loud ( which is no good for my remaining good ear and a nightmare for my damaged one – I am a slave to tinnitus) – to the extent that I could hardly hear what Zac was singing – and the damnable smoke machine had been turned on which is always a recipe for sore eyes for me for the next 48 hours so after four songs I took a trip out to the beer garden where there was a mob of people from Islington Mill doing some sort of art thing – pushing a pram around and looking all sort of “fin de siecle”/”Alice in Wonderland”. I took the chance to have a good chat with Tim Lyons of the Sandells and find out what he was up to – which was most informative. Note to self though – get to see “Baby Strange” again.

Up next the force of nature that was the Hamsters – and I use the word “was” advisably and with some degree of sadness as this was their last ever gig. What a way to go out though – starting with a memorable version of the “Chip Shop Song” which was in both parts amazingly funny and utterly brilliant. I was smiling broadly throughout the whole cathartic experience. Moet was in fine form – operating at full tilt as usual – and the very young Josh Dutton has to be one of the best bass players i’ve seen in a while. Dad Chris (the omnipresent Mr Dutton) suitably adorned in black nail varnish – and founder member Bobby Williams shared the guitar duties – and Carl Junglist Allen drove the whole thing with some vigour. The Hamsters were hot, sweaty, loud, occasionally cack-handed and all in all simply stunning.  It had to end unfortunately and a resounding send off with a mosh pit and the utterly potty mouthed and marvellous “I’m A Cunt” – with backing vocals from No 1 fan Stephen SD Doyle and Zac from Baby Strange – was a brilliant way to put the Hamster to bed for the last time. We’ll not see their like again I tell thee! Kill Pretty will emerge phoenix like from the ashes of The Hamsters with Chris, Josh, Moey and one Michael John Leigh. More of him shortly.

The Hamsters in full flow

Off out to the beer garden again for another chat – by which time the pram people had gone about their business and toddled off somewhere else, had a bit of a review of the previous nights business at Islington Mill with my Helmet friends and then in the concert area  again for The Blimp.

I could whitter on with my usual poly-syllabic nonsense but I will let the videos below do all the talking. Suffice to say they were exceptional with stunning readings of “Snowglobe” “Rifleman” , “Science and Technology”, “Fake Tan” , “Hagoda Pagoda” and “Bin Bag Shuffle” sticking out in my mind. What is very noticeable is the rock steady way Ken and Mike lay the rhythm down allowing “The General” to deliver his usual bravura performance. If you have not caught them live yet – do yourself a favour. They are doing a number of gigs across the north-west over the next few weeks.

I’ve said elsewhere how impressed I am with their ability to meld various forms together – both across the set, and even within one song. They can do the short punky (or post-punky stuff) as well as more extended neo-progressive pieces with ease. As reviewed previously “Snowglobe” is a beast of a thing – a surging, hypnotic, nigh on 8 minute piece of intensive bass riffery, psyche guitar, and kraut-rock rhythms coupled with west coast elements, morphing into a manic eastern european barn-dance …. marvellous

So in summary – all in all  an excellent evenings entertainment …..

Thanks to Mike Leigh for the use of the videos which were recorded by Mike of  Ting and Ting  – who by the way put on an excellent show for the princely sum of £2 – a bargain.

So, over to The Blimp…..

The General
Ken The Bass
Mike Leigh

Salford Music Scene – 26th July 2011

Somewhat otherwise engaged doing the Reformation Webzine at the moment so only chance to list what’s on this show

  • AAAK – Sharpshooter – The Collection
  • Bill Davro – Winter is Over – Single
  • Twinkle & Co – Haunted – Demo
  • The Calimocho Club – Roll The Dice – Whoa Whoa Hey Hey
  • O.C.D. – Sha Na Na – Single
  • Humanizer – Shinobi – Early Version
  • The Ascension – Idealistic Future – New Renaissance
  • Madpack – It’s The Menace – Demo
  • The Calimocho Club – Baby’s got a switch blade – Whoa Whoa Hey Hey
  • Periscope – Valentina Tereshkova – Demo
  • The Calimocho Club – She Told Me – Whoa Whoa Hey Hey
  • Kranius – Waste My Time – Turn to Stone
  • The Hamsters – Chip Shop Song – The Sonic Diary Sessions
  • The Blimp – Art Job
  • The Fall – The League of Bald-Headed Men – The Infotainment Scan
Click on the link below to hear the show

Salford Music Scene – 26th July 2011 by Bobonscr on Mixcloud