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The Brothers Band at the Town House

Review

It isn't particularly unusual of me to review acts playing at the Town House in Leamington: Jonny Roden often puts on top acts (looking forward to Doc Brown again in a fortnight's time) and he was telling me last night of some interesting plans he has in mind for future gigs.

What is unusual is to find myself in the company of the artists I had reviewed the previous evening (see below in the magazine): Taylor-Louise & Naomi-Beth who were celebrating their triumph at the Magic Lantern & like me watching the Brothers Band. Thus please do read into my comments below input from their experience & perspectives: it was good to be able to discuss the artists I was watching with such talented & knowledgeable people.

 

I had previously seen them play as the ‘3 Brothers Band' (and greatly enjoyed them) but as they have slimmed down to two brothers (austerity measures?), the name has necessarily evolved: look out for them however under both titles for the immediate future as contractual obligations mean that some upcoming gigs are under the old banner.

 

Necessarily, given the nature of the gig, the set was weighted towards cover versions, all of which they attacked with verve, passion & a joy in performance. A key moment for me was their version of "Redemption Song": a number (perhaps understandably) normally played with great reverence towards its composer, but which they performed with unusual energy & anger almost, reviving the meaning of the lyrics & restoring it as the protest song Bob Marley wrote it as. I turned to voice my feelings to my companions & I'm pleased to say they agreed.

Many numbers will be familiar to most music lovers: they were after all setting out to give the clientele a good night out (there was dancing!) but as I say, the delight in playing was evident & as the night wore on, more unusual numbers crept in to the great credit of the band: anyone who goes for the Who's "A Quick One, While He's Away" or the Kinks' "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues" is alright in my books.

 

It was quite something how so much power & energy (not mention capacity to play the songs at all) came from just two performers : Tyron Hansel (lead vocals and on many numbers, acoustic bass) and Rikki Hansel (guitar, harmonica, vocals). Thankfully both are excellent players (I enjoyed the songs which featured long instrumental passages) and very dynamic singers. As they are left handed & right handed respectively, we had an interesting discussion about the aesthetics of the instruments pointing in opposite directions (cf the Beatles of course) They are also very good at audience interaction & certainly put on a great show.

What really interested me however was the inclusion of a few original songs: mostly bluesy in style, very much reminiscent in tone with the sort of blues rock popular around the turn of the 60s/70s, the era from which much of their covers repertoire is drawn. I should very much like to catch a full originals set (I gather they expand to a four piece for such gigs)

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Satsangi & Dr Feelgood at the Assembly

Review

I had already had every intention of popping along to see one of my all time favourite bands, Dr Feelgood at the Assembly last evening but it was a real extra treat to hear that top local band Satsangi had been added to the bill since it was first announced. Readers of my reviews will already be aware of my love of this band & in fact it was the second time I'd seen them this week after their superb APE Promotions/"Alternative Sounds" performance downstairs in the Zephyr Lounge with (among many others) Roddy Radiation. Fascinating to see them play on the same bills as such great names & more than hold their own in that company. Interestingly, there was little or nothing to choose between the vocal skills & projection of Satsangi vocalist Su Menon & Dr Feelgood's Robert Kane: both are extremely powerful singers with an ability to deliver at full power with no loss of clarity: indeed although I have heard Satsangi play outdoors, I tend to see them in smaller venues (apart from the Empire where I stayed close to the stage): last night I moved to the rear for a couple of numbers & her voice was just as distinct & impressive back there. As support act, the Satsangi set was relatively short & marks a transition into this forthcoming "You Saw Something" album (due next month) with tracks from that being introduced to good effect alongside fan favourites from previous albums. Swansea's loss (they were originally supposed to be playing there last night) was definitely our gain.

 

What can one say about Dr Feelgood? This band have the most peculiar history & defy most of the rules. The archetype "Trigger's Broom" band, with no members left from their iconic first lineup nor the later one which had the hit singles, this should in theory be the sort of affair I'd feel uneasy about. Not so. A band which started as a pure R&B one & which over the years has extended its blues repertoire through the virtuosity of new members & yet few bands have had such an effect on the birth of punk rock...

How do they make this work? Well there are several reasons. Firstly, although none of the current four (who have been Dr Feelgood now for nearly twenty years: the original lineup only managed six) do date back to the era when the band made its reputation, guitarist Steve Walwyn, bassist Phil Mitchell and drummer Kevin Morris all played with Lee Brilleaux, in some cases for a good decade, so are thoroughly steeped in what it means to be a member of the band. The continuity is at Lee's request & is supported by Wilko Johnson, the Big Figure & John B Sparks. Is the fury & passion which inspired bands such as the Jam, Clash & Sex Pistols still there? Yes it is. This is not your average R&B band, the hallmark is musicians who love their music & deliver it with 100% commitment: though it is noticeable how their very considerable experience has allowed them to carefully build & calibrate sets, varying the dynamics and probably prolonging them beyond what the original hell for leather sets could be. Whatever fuels them these days is pure passion & not any more dubious substances.

What has gone however is the image which again inspired the punks: I can only think of the Who to be bracketed with the first Dr Feelgood for looking genuinely frightening. These guys are simply too nice to get away with that. Thank goodness.

Equally, the idiosyncratic playing has evolved. Wilko's style is unique & Steve, one of the great R&B players in the world has his own way of playing: it would do a disservice if not insult to two of my favourite guitarists to copy the technique (also I imagine it might cause him injury: it looks potentially rather painful): Steve reproduces Wilko's iconic licks in his own inimitable fashion.

The setlist contains a plethora of songs well known to all in the audience & probably most readers. Plenty of Wilko era favourites, a sprinkling of later tunes, some nuggets from the great R&B songbook and they were over an hour into the set before I realised we hadn't even got at that point to the hits. I shan't bore you with a list of titles. You know these songs.

There were several "gear change" moments: firstly one of my favourites "All Through The City" and then a staggering version of "Dust My Broom" when Steve switched to slide guitar and the band really let loose.

The crowd were clearly all long term fans & the feeling was heightened by it being a "home town gig" for Steve (and it's a great opportunity here to insert a repeated appreciation of all that he does for local music). The demand for this band is global, so local connection & the privileges of that not withstanding, we are jolly lucky to get to see this band. They are not simply the best at what they do, they are in a field of their own.

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Honky Tonk Rose at Leamington Food & Drink Festival

Review

Honky Tonk Rose always promise their audiences "three chords & the truth" but on this occasion they also served up, appropriately for the occasion, thematically appropriate songs: at one point bassplayer Horace Panter promised us "a couple" of songs about alcohol, but they spoilt us with four in a row (like bottles I suppose): with more later. The country music catalogue is full of heartbreak & tears & we got plenty of those in the lyrics, but Honky Tonk Rose transcend the subject matter & brought good cheer to the well attended festival. I particularly noted the excellent moves by the several dancing toddlers yesterday's set attracted.

I watched this band last year (though on the now dismantled bandstand which is being renovated) with an umbrella in hand & got a bit cold and damp, so it was pleasing that the rain had passed this year by the time they came on.

Many thanks to guitarist Rob Fielden-Nicholls (husband of lead singer/rhythm guitarist Sylvie) who today filled in for usual HTR member, violinist Jools Street who was required for duties in the far north.....

Honky Tonk Rose play country music they tell us, but they play from a broad palette which embraces associated genres such as country swing, cajun & r&b and range from the well known to covers of artists not even band members themselves all knew: it can be an educative experience as well as an emotive one with this band......

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Godiva Festival 2018

Review

Firstly an apology: this is not & cannot pretend to be a broad overview of the 2018 Godiva Festival (the 20th in fact): I think that is beyond anyone given the number of acts over so many stages. This is "my" Godiva and I'll have to leave reviews of the Main Stage &  so on to other writers, not least the mainstream media who I'm sure will cover the marquee acts. I should also like to steer you to the posts & photos of "Hot Music Live's" Alan Moores who captured many acts I saw & more which I could not. I caught bit of some Main Stage performances but never a whole set as I was involved (to my great pleasure) in helping with the two stages dedicated to local music from Coventry & Warwickshire: the Acoustic Stage & the BBC Stage: both were organised by local musician & promoter Sam McNulty with his superb team: Rich Keogh, Viktoria  Hricíková & Jeff Morris. The sound on both over the three days was as superb as the team despite the logistical & technical challenges of hosting 70 acts over three days, managing changeovers, varied lineups & instruments and despite the inevitable dramas (one performer had two guitars malfunction before performing her set on a third and the very next act managed to have their double bass break. Twice. Believe me watching a double bass break mid song is quite spectacular), They kept right on schedule all weekend: oh and not forgetting the need to be bang on time & sound on the BBC Stage for their live broadcasts. And when they were not making things work for others, each of the team played several sets as musicians in their own acts or supporting others.

 

As I said, there were more than 70 local artists on show (more than 80 including acts playing on other stages) and I was privileged to watch the majority of them. The diversity was impressive, as was the quality & given the large number of acts who must be of "Godiva quality" who didn't play this year, the impression is of a tremendous local music scene.

Equally important to me was watching the level & quality of support. So many artists supported each other: either before or after their own sets, or even returning on other days to do so. The whole vibe was excellent & the format enabled lots of guest slots with performers able to play on tracks they had guested on in the studio.

The mixture of originals & covers was interesting: some opted for their own compositions, others, despite having extensive back catalogues played covers-only sets, yet others were covers acts of course & others introduced crowd pleasers among their own songs.

At this point, you might be fearing an immense list of detailed reviews of fifty odd acts: I suspect that that would stop most readers so reluctantly, as there are so many acts I'd love to cover with the depth they deserve, I'll cherry pick a bit.

Favourite covers of the weekend? Contenders must include the Caprines' version of "Be My Baby", the Suns of Rest's stunning "Strawberry Fields Forever" or the entire Danny Cunningham set which got the most vigorous audience response on the Acoustic Stage of the weekend (and included his old Squad colleague Sam McNulty getting up for a rendition of their classic "Eight Pounds A Week": which I suppose doesn't really count as a cover).

From among the various "Alternative Sounds" stars playing, it was great to see Izzie Derry bring her full band to Godiva on both the Friday night (Acoustic Stage) and Saturday (BBC): her older songs being rearranged to excellent effect (interestingly often played slower to bring out the dynamics still more) plus some brilliant new material which I am looking forward to her recording. Catch her at the "Hot Music Live Introducing" night at the Zephyr Lounge on October 20th. Another band you'll see & hear that night are Crokodile Tears who played a set the day before the release of their new album "Old Skool": unsurprisingly material from that appeared alongside their classics such as "Egg ‘n' Chips" and "Francis Bates" plus the customary humour. I look forwards to hearing more of "Yoko" etc and in time perhaps "Bobbie" or "Shirley's in Birmingham" will join in too (I'm not the only one judging by audience requests for songs which have neither been played live by the Croks nor officially released up to that afternoon).

 

Keith Fabrique played a very well received set on the balmy Sunday afternoon: he may have been on an acoustic guitar but the feel was very definitely rock. As well as his signature song "Black Ice", Keith took advantage of the opportunity to bring up other musicians present for songs they had recorded together: his brother Steve for the latter's "You Scratch My Face" (a very powerful number) and Chris Sidwell for "Inside Looking Out" (or "Voyeur Song" as it appears on Keith's current "Talk On the Radio" album).

If Danny Cunningham was the storm raiser on Saturday night, that role fell to Matt Cattell on the Friday. Tasked with playing live on an acoustic guitar with Jake Bugg just down the field & Cradle of Filth yards away in their tent, he rose to the occasion and swiftly created a fine atmosphere with mobile phone lights lighting the dark & his two rivals impossible to hear.

For many people, the return to live action of Fall Girl (Michelle Sciarrotta) was a standout moment: and the BBC agreed, broadcasting her short set of songs from her forthcoming album live. Unfortunately sidelined from being able to play her guitar for many months, she was able on this occasion to manage quality rather than quantity. I personally cited her summer single "Anywhere" as a classic with its upbeat, optimistic Blondie/shoegazing sheen of guitars & voices yet at Godiva, it showed another facet as a poignant, wistful ballad: any song with more than one way of being interpreted is an excellent one in my book.

Of other originals artists, an interesting juxtaposition were Calton Kelly & Viktoria (I'd like to thank them at this point for kindly offering tracks for future "Alternative Sounds" volumes as have fellow Godiva 2018 artists Caleb Murray & Bazza's Dispensable People). Both are pianist/singers, each played on both stages and in fact shared their keyboards with each other. Both are highly talented and play regularly in Coventry (be nice to see them play elsewhere in Warwickshire if possible) yet have highly distinctive and original styles: Calton Kelly is the epitome of the classic: a soaring & beautiful voice with beautifully crafted songs. Viktoria has definitely a style entirely of her own in terms of songwriting: I can't begin to classify it, so I suggest that you catch her live and judge for yourself. Fortunately she does explain each song beforehand.A slight digression here as I was pondering over the weekend why, given that so many local artists we saw were highly talented as vocalists, instrumentalists and writers and given that their abilities often don't seem any less than some who are mega successful: what is needed to make the breakthrough? The potential is definitely there. One might hope that the 2021 spotlight might help but it would be good if they didn't have to wait three more years.I'll have to take a run through some of my other highlights a bit more swiftly before I lose your attention now I think....

If you like local musicians with hearts as big as the Clash: check out Bazza's Dispensable People.I'm looking forward to seeing

The Hatstand Band (they of the afore mentioned disintegrating double bass) at the Magic Lantern.

I'd heard much talk of the fast emerging High Bandwidth & was very pleased to finally catch them live, as I was to see Angelo Cardone: another very unique talent coming through the open mic circuit: hope to see much more of acts like this in the year ahead. I'm sure Autopilot will do well given their well received start to their career. Joe Dolman (who also played multiple stages) is an artists whose career is definitely swiftly progressing: it is so great to see how another product of the local circuit is doing so well  and yet remaining as connected to his fans as ever. If only more people knew of the Caprines, they could be one of the really big local bands: in fact it was standing watching them with Brody Swain and discussing the issue that got me thinking about "what makes one act more successful than another?"

There is no inherent quality problem with local music: the talent is there in significant amounts. All the above (and more) are delightful & deserving artists who support each other, play community events at their own expense & donate wonderful music to local compilations. In return, they deserve the attention & support of local music lovers to the greatest extent possible.

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"Old Skool" by Crokodile Tears

Review

Tell me: are you "Old Skool"?

Crokodile Tears  have been releasing albums now for some 33 years since their eponymous debut when they were known as the more conventionally spelt "Crocodile Tears" (a release which was praised by Jerry Dammers). The constant has of course been singer/songwriter Chris Sidwell (the lineup changes in fact sparked the name tweak when Chris began working with different musicians: the rest of the original lineup being essentially the cult band "Pink Umbrellas").

Nevertheless, the latest album, "Old Skool" which officially opens its term on September 3rd features among Chris' many collaborators former Reluctant Stereotype, Pink Umbrella and long time Primitives producer  Paul Sampson who has played with him from that very first album & produced & mixed this one too.

Although principally Chris' baby, Crokodile Tears is also a highly collaborative ensemble. Few tracks feature precisely the same lineup & the different musicians bring a variety of instruments, approaches and sensibilities creating a most eclectic sonic collection as well as you'll hear, superb playing.

Chief current Croks (though this doesn't mean that even they play on every track) are Alf Hardy and Jerry Richards. Both were/are also in Earthlab, Alf is well known for his work at Cabin Studios and Jerry is of course a Hawklord and former member of Hawkwind. Joining them , Chris & Paul, are local musician, producer & broadcaster Keith Fabrique, local legend Sam McNulty (Squad/Giraffes), harmonica player Bryan Lea Bradford, sitarist Chris Cook, violinist Nigel Ward and others too numerous to mention. Tracks are mainly written by Chris, some with Jerry and/or Alf plus a jam co-written by the band with Chris Cook, a cover of the Lennon/McCartney "Norwegian Wood" and Jerry's wonderful ‘Coventry & Western' (as Alf dubbed the style) jig dedicated to renowned Elizabethan necromancer "Dr Dee": a great live favourite.

If the music is eclectic (and it most certainly is: this band defies genre categorisation), the subject matter is even more so. Apart from an instrumental celebrating a long deceased alchemist, the album covers a bewildering array of lyrical targets from the haircut of a national sporting treasure to ecology, astrology, photography and gender stereotyping.

However, if there is a theme (and many Croks albums do possess one), it is about love, the human condition and the passage & perspectives of time. The whole philosophy of the band is to create songs from childhood perspectives or those of adults behaving or thinking in a childish way. This at one level produces a great deal of (gentle & good) humour, but peeling at the layers of the onion in most songs reveals and rewards the listener with deeper messages. Crokodile Tears can never have produced such a beautiful set of album bookends (we are informed that "there are no secret tracks") as "Kids" and the closing "title song" called "Mermaids". Both, in their own way look back to the childhood of their narrator & can make you cry in a way "Bobbie"  or "Shirley's In Birmingham" will make you laugh unless you have a heart of stone.

The Croks aim to make each new album their best yet and there can be no doubt that despite the excellence of their previous work, this one is a masterpiece. In a fair world, this album would get the airplay and critical attention its inherent qualities merit. However in the current musical media climate where lyrical sophistication, subtle performances and above all maturity fail to excite those in control of such decisions, one can only hope for someone with wit & discernment in the mainstream to open their ears & listen to it objectively to judge it on its merits. At any event, the local aficionados will appreciate it, buy it & continue to attend their gigs & the local broadcasters & writers with that discernment will carry on appreciating true & enduring quality: you know who they are. If you meet someone who likes Crokodile Tears, you know you've met someone you can respect.

Despite the release date being some weeks away yet, copies of "Old Skool" can already be bought at Temperance in Leamington.

If my review of the forthcoming album has whet your appetite for Crokodile Tears or if you read Paul Englefield's great review of their Magic Lantern gig in the magazine, you can catch them live on the eve of the album release at the Godiva Festival on 2nd September, at the Zephyr Lounge on 29th September for the "Alternative Sounds"/APE Promotions night (with Roddy "Radiation" Byers, Satsangi, Grassroutes, Jackdaw with Crowbar & Mr Binx) and again at the Zephyr Lounge on October 20th for the "Hot Music Live Introducing" night with Clemency, Izzie Derry, Violet & Luna Kiss.

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From the back catalogue

"Art in the Park" 2018: some personal reflections

Review

Firstly a caveat: this is not (unfortunately) a comprehensive review of both days of Leamington's 2018 "Art in the Park": personal commitments & ...
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"Fire in the Belly" launch

Review

What a great combination: the launch of a great new book on the history of Leamington & area music in a wonderful new venue accompanied by some great ...
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"Read All About It"

Review

If anyone remembers my article of July 10th in which I looked forward to the Belgrade Theatre's takeover of the former "Coventry Evening ...
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"Alternative Sounds" at Coventry Pride 2018 at the CET Popup

Review

In its relatively short lifetime, the former "Coventry Evening Telegraph" building has become a superb & iconic venue with a tremendous momentum over ...
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"We'll Live And Die In These Towns" launch

News

We remain so fortunate to have in our area the Belgrade Theatre with its superb history of promoting innovative new work, fostering new talent & ...
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Chalk Drawings at the Town House

Review

I hope anyone reading this remembers my April 6th review of Chalk Drawings' current (concept) album 'Grand Union'? Perhaps that's ...
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Crokodile Tears News

News

It is a very busy time for cult local band Crokodile Tears.
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Morocco Dave at the CET Popup

Review

It is a huge shame that the superb opportunities for performance that the CET Popup has offered are only lasting a short while: though plans for a ...
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APE Surreal Deal

Review

I've said it before, but it bears repeating that the APE nights promoted by Johnny Satsangi represent the best musical value for money around.
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Retroville at Tunehouse at the Townhouse

Review

The law of averages suggests that many "Hot Music Live" readers will have seen & heard Holly Hewitt (vocals) & David Page (guitar & vocals) perform ...
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Wrongmas 2

Review

There can be no better value for money gigs locally than the ones Ape Promotions put on at the Zephyr Lounge.
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Vince Hill "Sounding Off" at Coventry Music Museum

Review

Suddenly, Coventry Music Museum found itself celebrating its fourth birthday on Saturday 4th November 2017.
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Nigel Clark at "Tunehouse at the Townhouse"

Review

"Tunehouse at the Townhouse" is on a fine run of form at the moment: after superb recent gigs by the Folly Brothers, the Doc Brown Trio, Stone Bear & ...
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John Otway at the Zephyr Lounge

Review

There can be few contemporary musicians who are held in as much affection by audiences as John Otway who performed at the Zephyr Lounge on Saturday ...
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South Town at the Town House

Review

After the superb Stone Bear gig at Tunehouse at the Townhouse last week, this week saw another top notch act, namely the return of the splendid South ...
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The Ruts DC at the Zephyr Lounge

Review

 The Ruts DC are not admittedly a local band (so please excuse that aspect of this review), but they certainly played a local venue (the Zephyr ...
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APE Promoters' evening

Review

The most looked forward to of nights in the Leamington music scene is arguably (well I'd argue that way) the "APE Promoters" nights organised by ...
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Ellie Gowers' new EP

Review

One thing which I guess always gets the pulse of a reviewer speeding up is the chance to write about someone whose musical career is just taking off: ...
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Miss Songbird & Chris Gibbons at Apehangers

Review

This review I suppose is something of a series of tip offs to Hot Music Live readers: to be honest, my main reasons for originally attending the gig ...
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