Fireworks

ANOTHER MOMENT IN TIME AND SPACE (7)

 

I realise that this has been a terribly long time coming, but when one has as many interests as I do, and spends as long in front of a computer as I seem to anyway, the thought of sitting down and spending even more time in front of a computer doesn’t really fill me with positive thoughts, and yet there have been so many things since the last time that I would have liked to comment upon. And, I suppose, that is where Face Book comes in and Twitter too; but I have shunned all encouragement to make the leap into these universes. I am happy where I am, and in a way it is a terrible self-indulgence to share so much of oneself with others, and even - quite possibly - a gross impertinence.

 

 And yet there is something from the weekend of 16th and 17th July that I would like to share with you before it really is too late. I was invited to Grimsby. Not perhaps what many of you would regard as the centre of the Known Universe, but in terms of having a thriving rock club – not really so far removed!  Perhaps it would be a good idea for me to digress for just a moment. As many of you reading this will know, I have been running a series in Fireworks about record companies/labels and this is steaming ahead to its 25th consecutive appearance: not something that I expected to happen if I am being honest with you. There are quite a few more willing labels lined up, too: including some that are far from obscure. By the way, in all the time I have been doing the series, only one company has eschewed the very generous offer of free the publicity the series provides. They wanted to do it their way, not ours, and Bruce and I jointly agreed that they could go and take a running jump (or, more pithy words to that effect!!)

 

 

But the series will not last forever and I have been giving considerable thought to what might replace it. Record/CD shops?  No; there’s an excellent book about them – ‘Last Shop Standing (A Journey Through An Industry In Turmoil)’ by Graham Jones, and if you haven’t read it yet, well, what’s keeping you? Music writers? No; our very own Neil Daniels has that sown up in his two very readable ‘All Pens Blazing’ volumes. Record producers? Well, I’m not much into that side of things… Rock clubs still promoting live music….?  Hmmmm: now there’s a real possibility, I thought. So I bounced the concept off a few people and had a pretty decent reaction to it.  Where to start?  Well, my chum and stalwart Fireworks subscriber Scott Wardle (who, incidentally, runs a much more than very decent 2nd hand CD/DVD store in Grimsby – Replay Records) had been badgering me to travel over to visit the club where he also DJs – ‘Yardbirds’, so I explained my thoughts to him and said I could try a dummy run for the possible series, using “Yardies”….I selected the weekend in July quite a while in advance as they had great shows lined up for both nights: Gentlemen Of Distorted Sound (GODS) and The Quireboys on the Saturday (and this was a full house) and Cornerstone®, Sacred Heart and Crimes Of Passion on the Sunday.


Transpennine Express delivered me to Grimsby from Manchester on schedule and I made my way to Scott’s emporium, which was* next to the Tap & Spile pub to the rear of the Freshney Place shopping centre, and about a 10 minute walk from the railway station. It was not large by some standards, but was well stocked, mainly with stuff that you won’t find in most similar shops – and that means the sort of stuff that Fireworks and Rocktopia readers would delight in finding. I made several purchases including a 3 CD set by 1960s icons - yes, you’ve guessed it – The Yardbirds! (I’d been looking for this for quite a while). I’ll never forget when and where I bought it, will I? Once the shop had been closed, I was taken to the club, which is located on Church Street for a guided tour while the equipment was being set up. 

* In the meantime, Scott has moved to larger premises in the town. See a future Blog for an update!

 

The club is not over-large, and maximum capacity is 220, but it really makes use of all the available space tremendously well. The bar is large and well-stocked and has four servers, so that nobody has to wait long. This is separated from the main part of the room by a wall and two access points. On one side is the stage and on the other is the DJ area and sound mixing desk, this being manned by an excellent sound engineer, Liam McCann, who ensures a great balance and appropriate volume level. (More about this further on…) There is a decked area outside at the back of the club with tables and chairs for smokers (and, indeed anybody else!) to go if they so desire: and was popular on the two nights I was there as they were both warm and dry evenings. Behind the stage the performers have a large chill out area, with comfortable seating, a large TV, stocked fridge, kitchenette and two shower cubicles. There is also a bunk room so that bands who don’t wish to head off immediately after their performance can stay over.  I must admit that I was most impressed by all of this, and this would surely encourage bands to return to the club time and time again. The club also has a sizeable and well-appointed members’ only area downstairs with a private bar, which is not seen by normal gig attendees. All of this is extremely impressive when one considers that the club used to be a pub (the Hitchin’ Rail) and was derelict and had a severely flooded basement when the work began to turn it into the great venue it is today.

 

Fed and watered at an excellent (and very nicely priced) carvery in Cleethorpes in the company of Quireboys drummer Matt Goom, my hosts and I arrived at the club to find support band Gentlemen Of Distorted Sound already in full swing. It’s amazing how a band’s name can be misleading; there was no distorted sound, and indeed I was immediately taken by the quality of audio penetrating my ears. The band (Gareth Nugent, vox; Mako, guitar; Lawrence Santi, bass and Richard Fordham, drums) impressed me immensely with selections from their debut EP ‘Bone Idol’ – particularly impressive were the songs ‘The Gods’ and the ZZ Top cover ‘La Grange (Shining On)’ and a further four songs, making nine in total. Sorry to be rather hazy about these, but I seen to have mislaid their set list (doh!!) but what I will say is that if you see them scheduled to play near you, drop everything (well, not literally) and go and see them. In Dublin-born vocalist Gareth Nugent, they have charismatic front man. Left-handed guitarist Mako was also quite a vision: with make-up to give the impression of having American Indian ancestry. In reality (I discovered when chatting with him at the after show party) he went to school in the same town as me (High Wycombe) while his father currently resides in the same town as me (Bury). It really is a small world.  Incidentally he is a powerful guitarist and really rocked it up. The rhythm department were also rather special, drummer Richard Fordham being the latest recruit to the band (his predecessor Russell Gilbrook now being a member of Uriah Heep). Good, high quality, gritty rock with classic flavourings went down well with the sell-out crowd, and they proved to be an excellent hors d’oeuvre for the main course…

 

 

Not a lot needs to be said about the veteran rockers, Quireboys, although this was the first time I had seen them live. When Spike says “We are the Quireboys, and this is rock ‘n’ roll” then that is exactly what they proceeded to serve up to the ecstatic crowd.  His raspy, throaty vocals (think Rod Stewart and add an extra layer of sandpaper) are not to everybody’s taste, but my goodness they do really rather suit the material the band plays, the set list comprising Hoochie Coochie Man / Misled / There She Goes Again / Tramps & Thieves / Mona Lisa Smiled  (so good, the band have recorded it twice!)/ Roses & Rings / Ode To You / Lorraine Lorraine (apparently a true story) / Searchin’ (dedicated to departed souls) / This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll (a song about a steel horse!) / Hey You (with a rendition of the Flake advert at the start!)/ Sweet Mary Ann (yee-haw!!) / Mayfair (reminiscent of the Eagles’ ‘Witchy Woman’)/ Seven O’Clock (which turned into a major sing-a-long) followed by an encore of Dirty Town / I Don’t Love You Anymore and Sex Party….100 minutes of sheer R&R fun.  Phew!!  I also managed to chat with nearly all the band afterwards (though Spike was elusive!). As seen, the band comprised Spike (vox); ‘Griff’ Griffin (lead guitar); Keith Weir (keyboards), Paul Guerin (guitar), Chris Corney (bass) and the aforementioned Matt Goom (drums).

 

It was a very special evening, and my thanks go to the very wonderful Steve Williams for the selection of photos that follow. A word of warning!  One of them shows me – seemingly enjoying myself – with the legendary Grimsby Rockettes (http://www.myspace.com/grimsbyrockettes).  Be very careful….. heh, heh!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a very sparse attendance on the Sunday night, not helped by Judas Priest playing at the Doncaster Dome “just down the road” (and a bit!) Fortified by some of the best fish & chips I have ever had (“You’ll notice that the menu has “small”, “medium” and “giant” sized portions, beware that the “giant” portion is the size of a small whale. So I went for the “medium” and still couldn’t finish it!!  The population of Grimsby and Cleethorpes may no longer have a local fishing fleet, but they still celebrate great F&C!!) it was still a great evening (for the most part). First up were the Austrian version of Cornerstone (differentiated by having a superscript ® after their name). They also differ from the more famous band by having a young female vocalist, Patricia Hillinger. The rest of the band comprises Matthew Wachelhofer (bass), Steve Wachelhofer (guitars) and Mike Pawlowitsch (drums/percussion).

 

Once again I was impressed by the great sound courtesy of Liam McCann, and the young band (who were playing the last date on an extensive tour of locations in the UK) really played their heart out, focusing (although not entirely) upon songs from their new album ‘Somewhere In America’ (Stay / Rise & Shine / Breathing For You / Being Unaware / Like A Stranger (the band’s favourite from the album) / High & Low). The rest of the set comprised Black Velvet (made famous by Alannah Myles) / Ready To Go / Burning Heart (and this was quite an amazing version of the Survivor song) / Fade Away and as an encore the ACDC song You Shook Me… I have recently seen a terrible slating of this band, which I think is totally unfair. Their repertoire may sometimes err slightly towards the poppier end of melodic rock, but I like them and their professionalism and commitment is first rate. I hope they will really make their mark one day.

 

Sacred Heart (Paul Stead, vox; Mark Stephenson, lead guitar; Darren Jhuboo, bass and Dave Thurlby, drums) have been steadily building a reputation for good, honest melodic rock for several years, and their performance here impressed me no end. They are one of a growing number of bands who have atmospheric introductory music to start the performance and which morphed straight into the opening song.  With a new album ‘Propaganda’ in the offing, we were treated to a selection from right across their soon-to-be four album collection and starting with the title song from the new album, a rather heavy number by the band’s usual standards: and a clarion call that the band has upped its game. Amongst the songs also aired from the new disc were ‘Nothing At All’ (which seemed to take the wind out of Paul Stead’s sails, as he was heard to utter afterwards “that was motherfucking fast!”) and ‘Spit’ (“for all the men when on holiday”) – with its amusingly risqué lyrics! Other stand out songs from the 16 played were ‘Down’ (“for all the lovers in the house”) a gorgeous ballad that turns into quite a heavy number and featuring wonderful 3-part harmonies, ‘Afraid’ with its tasty guitar solo and sudden ending that caught me by surprise (and featuring “hardcore ninja clapping” that was too early, according to Paul!), the really wonderful ‘Tonight’ that immediately followed ‘Afraid’, ‘Perfect’ (which seems to be about a cross-dressing male) and closing number ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Away where the guys really let their hair down.

 

 Final band, Crimes Of Passion, hit the stage at 1045. Before starting, I was rather concerned to see that house sound guy Liam McCann had been usurped by someone that the band had brought with them to handle their “sound”. I was immediately reminded of Kingfisher Sky who headlined the last night of the inaugural ‘Fused’ festival earlier this year, and not only had their own sound person but also their own lighting guy – both of whom conspired to nearly ruin the headliner’s British debut.

 

Well, whaddya know? He actually did ruin COP’s show – and to the extent that I now refer to them as “Crimes Against Hearing”!!  I managed four complete songs (I have the set list, but cannot bring myself to mention the songs as they were all FAR TOO BLOODY LOUD) and had to go outside once the fifth had started. I found half the crowd out there too – and the guys from Sacred Heart with whom I then had a good blether. Most embarrassingly, even the band’s guests (including Matt Black from Serpentine) ended up outside too….Thanks goodness it was a warm and dry night! It was a wretched miscalculation by the band and I hope they’ve given the miscreant his marching orders. 

 

However, it didn’t ruin what had been a really wonderful weekend, and I must thank all those associated with the club for making me feel so welcome, and for their truly wonderful hospitality and help: especially Robbo and his partner Jenny, my Saturday photographic accomplice Steve Williams, who provided some great photos (including the ones included here), but also all the other members of the Warlocks Motor Cycle Club, Lincolnshire and I suppose I must not forget the Grimsby Rockettes!!

 

In conclusion, I’d really like to thank Scott for being such a great host over the weekend, and to his wife Steph and son Dan for being so welcoming and generally wonderful.  I make this promise: “I will be back” (I wonder who said that before me??!!) 


PJS 291011



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Comments (1)add comment

Berny said:

...
Thanks for this GREAT blog entry! Cannot wait for no. 8! smilies/wink.gif
 
November 03, 2011
Votes: +1

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