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”.

PJs
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.

Hamsters last ever
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.

4cs
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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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.

DL2_05
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.

Loop-azznavour
Loop-aznavour

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.

Two Types Of Vegetables and Gravy

The Prick Jaggers

The Golden Ass

German Shepherd

Released : 18th April 2014

Album Cover

I don’t normally hand over or share  my reviews with other chaps but in this instance, when I asked the erstwhile  Eon Morse for a brief set of words about this album he came up with a description which I felt needed to be included……

There was something almost clandestine about The Prick Jagger’s , the way they existed outside the conventional systems , rarely playing conventional gigs preferring to play instead in the more intimate setting of someone’s home where as an added bonus they would cook you a meal and partake in the vine with you , very appropriate behaviour for students of Dionysus, the fact that the cd edition of this album corroded and became unplayable after a while , it felt as if it had devoured itself , I was lucky enough to play obsessively my copy of the Golden Ass before it ceased to share it’s pleasures , when you listen you’ll hear why I was so captivated , the music here is brim full of ideas , of wit and wisdom in equal measure , it has an energy that makes me happier with life.

People like lists , so here’s a small list of my favourite ‘ Manchester’ albums in no particular order:

  • 10 cc –  Sheet Music
  • The Fall – Hex Enduction Hour
  • World of Twist – Quality Street
  • Buzzcocks – Times Up
  • The Prick Jaggers  –  The Golden Ass

It is that good!

Listen , buy , tell a friend , let the world now , this album deserves to be ( in terms of sales) the ‘ Tubular Bells’ of the modern age …..

A fascinating perspective, and as someone who has listened to Mr Morse’s views on music in general, and the Manchester scene in particular, I have to say this does mark this album out as something special.

And, you know what, he is completely right. This is another one of those hidden gems of the rich history of Manchester music. On one hand bitingly witty, caustically humorous, and playful, on the other hand heading straight for the jugular to point out the idiosyncratic behaviour of modern Britain. Balancing a pungent approach to electronica, with a slightly alien approach to what was described elsewhere as “country and northern”.

Patriq Gannon and Robert Jones take the anticipated norms of music flip them over and both surprise and delight with the variety of material, the subject matter, and the overall delivery which veers between a concert in your living room and a chat in the pub with your mates with a musical backing. Any album that name checks Stephen Hawking, Lou Reed and Sisyphus is OK by me and demands to be heard. Gannon’s delivery is uniquely northern and special. The whole thing is something special.

And as they say……..

The Prick Jaggers were once the new Olympian bards of rock and roll. They were the voice and promise of the counter culture, they who shat in Hank Marvins shoe. The guys who put three chords into bed with electronic discharge. Who sailed into 2002 and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Shergar! They were written off as has-beens by the summer of 2005, and suddenly shifted gear, releasing their debut album The Golden Ass in March 2006.

Two fallen men stood upright before you. How is it that they came to stand? Such burdens did these men carry on their shoulders! Yet these beacons of the Overman walked on the stage before your purty lickle eyes.

G E Pennyfather’s Recording Artists, The Prick Jaggers.

2001-2008. RIP

Highly recommended…….

Available from German Shepherd……www.germanshepherdrecords.bandcamp.com/