Sœur @ The Ferret

I’ve written about Sœur on this blog a few times before (you can see my attempt to describe their sound in this review from April). They’re one of my absolute favourite up and coming bands and it’s great to see them starting to get recognition from a wider audience now, with them getting national exposure through the likes of Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music and Daniel P Carter’s Radio One Rock Show.

They have a new EP due to drop on the 17th of this month and they’re putting on a nationwide tour to help promote this. I was chuffed to bits to see them announce a show in my home town at The Ferret, just down the road from me… and then I was filled with anxiety over whether the show would get the support it deserved. My last show there was the embarrassingly quiet False Heads gig, and I didn’t want Sœur to travel up from Bristol to perform to one man and his dog (…and me obvs!).

I’m happy to report that there was a decent gathering! This was one of the free shows that The Ferret hosts, and they often play around a bit with the line up, so the “headline” act doesn’t necessarily play last, but normally 3rd out of 4 bands, when the pub is likely to be busiest from natural footfall. Speaking to band member Anya after the show she said that they didn’t feel that would be fair on the last act, and so they decided to play last, even if that meant playing to fewer people. It was awesome to see that not only were there significant numbers who stuck around to see Sœur, but the pub was definitely at its busiest for their set, despite them not taking the stage until gone 11pm.

Opening up were Blackpool band Oceans Over Alderaan. Their guitarist had a plethora of effects pedals and gizmos, and I could tell they were going for an experimental sound, but personally I found the vocals were drowned out and to be honest the band failed to hold my attention.

Next were local lads Three Headed Monkey, and the 4-piece definitely did grab my attention, mostly via their pulsating and groovy bass lines. The bass player (who kinda looked like my tattooist) occupied the front and centre of the stage, and he was awesome to watch, the band churning out tunes that I thought combined the Red Hot Chili Peppers at their funky best, with Rage Against the Machine-esqe moments and definitely more than a wee bit of early Biffy Clyro thrown in to the mix. I really enjoyed it.

A long way from being just another local support act, next up were Pipapo from Leipzig in Germany. They get a bit of a mixed review from me, because their instrumental math rock was kind of cool, the guitarist having the mother of all pedal boards to eek out every conceivable effect you could think of, but instrumental bands are a bit of a bug bear for me. Personally I need a vocalist, otherwise it just feels all too self indulgent and ultimately unengaging. Whilst I find it hard to put aside my instrumental prejudice, one of the guys I was with is a big fan of that style and he loved it, claiming them to be the highlight of the night.

The main event for me was always going to be Sœur though, and I took myself towards the front so I could have a bop along. I’m very much use to them opening their set with ‘Put You On’ which has an unassuming intro before smashing you in the face with a sledge hammer when the chorus kicks in. They didn’t play it this time, which on the one hand made me a little sad, but it is good to see them keeping the set fresh. What they did instead was play a slow and moody intro that then kicked in to their standalone single ‘Left Living’ – it was an unexpected and cracking start to the set.

Early on in the performance it seemed that dual vocalist/guitarist Tina was having a few issues with her in-ear monitors, and those paying attention would also notice that Anya was obviously suffering with a bit of a head cold, but it didn’t seem to detract from the performance and the harmonies were still tighter than a nun’s chuff.

Meanwhile drummer Jim just went about his business at the back with an assured coolness. I used to have a thing about wanting to watch drummers who are really animated, but Jim’s drumming style is far more laid back which is quite an achievement given the dynamic nature of Sœur’s sound. I’m no drumming expert, but the constant stop/starts combined with the changes of pace and switching from quiet to loud strike me as a difficult shift for a drummer to put in, so kudos to him for making it look so easy.

The set showcased all of the songs from the upcoming EP. ‘Track Back’ is really upbeat with almost a bit of a ska/reggae feel to it, whilst recent single ‘Out Again’ makes great use of the dual vocal element of the band. Some of the songs from the upcoming release still aren’t in the public domain, but are still familiar to me having seen them played earlier in the year – the stickability of tracks that have only been performed live to date always impresses me.

There’s also early single ‘No Fire’ which is one of my favourites, and ‘Just Yet’ from debut EP ‘What Separates Us’ which, with it’s duelling vocals, is another great example of the bands uniqueness – the heavy outro to this song in particular highlights Sœur at their brutal best. The anthemic ‘Slow Days’ also from that debut EP is a great change of pace, and again shows the band’s versatility.

The set is finished with title track from the new EP ‘Fight’, which again is one of my favourites (damnit I love’em all!), but really is a great finale with its spoken word lyrics accompanying slowly building layers of drums and guitar culminating in a loud and frantic finish.

It was good to have a catch up with all three band members afterwards as they’re all good eggs (I pester them way too often, but they’re dead nice about it).

I struggle to come up with enough superlatives to say how impressed with this band I am, and I’m genuinely excited to see where their journey takes them. Their tour continues throughout the month and I definitely recommend going along to see them if you can.


Will Varley @ The Montgomery, Sheffield


So this gig was a bit different to the usual fair you’ll find on Mixing Up The Medicine given that it was essentially a sit down folk music gig in a theatre, so a little different to my usual pit fest. To make it extra different for me, I even took my wife AND my mum and dad.

I’ve been a fan of Will Varley for a few years now, having happened across him on the line up at a festival I was at. Somehow this ended up being my fifth time seeing him this year, having seen him touring his latest album ‘Spirit of Minnie’ back in February and then by crossing paths with him at three other festivals this year.

I think he’s a really great song writer, with a varied repertoire that covers musings on modern life, history and current affairs with a mixture of styles ranging from comedic talking blues right through to poignant and heartfelt ballads. Consistent throughout it all is an amazing knack of telling a great story.

Opening the night was local lad Ben Ibbotson, and he seemed to take his task of getting the crowd warmed up very seriously! He had a cracking voice and his indie-esque songs were very catchy. He did his upmost to get the crowd involved, evening managing to get a bit of a singalong with his set closing ‘These are the Days’.

Next up was Dubliner Ailbhe Reddy (…don’t worry, I don’t know how to say it either). She cut a somewhat diminutive figure on stage at first, but soon grew in to her set and seemed to warm to the audience as she went on. Her songs consisted of intricately plucked guitar melodies on a rather fetching 1950s style hollow body electric guitar, accompanied by a beautiful and delicate singing voice. It was a very different vibe to the opening act, but the audience were more than happy to listen and absorb the songs, which whilst introspective, were still absolutely captivating. A really enjoyable set from an artist that I really didn’t know anything about.

And then on to Mr Varley. A lot of the shows he’s performed this year have been with an accompanying band, with ‘Spirit of Minnie’ consisting of several songs that probably need accompaniment to bring them to life. Tonight however, it’s just Will and a nylon strung Spanish guitar and it’s ace.

He played a 90 minute set, but if it weren’t for my bladder insisting on a rest room break part way through, I don’t think I would have noticed (…and having to get up to go to the loo when it’s a sit down gig is proper awkward!!!).

As always it’s a really entertaining show. The songs alone are great anyway, but there’s also a great rapport with the audience and it’s not unusual for him to break off mid-song to tell a little story or joke about him messing up the words. There seems to be a lot of older material covered with favourites such as ‘Seize the Night’, ‘Weddings and Wars’ and ‘We Don’t Believe You’ all played as well as a few more obscure tracks such as ‘February Snow’ and ‘Advert Soundtrack’. In fact I don’t think he played any songs from that most recent album. As always the heartfelt ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ is beautifully done, though I do have to say that the arrangement on the full band version of the song is stunning if you ever do get chance to catch it.

The crowd seem most enthused for the comedic songs in the set. ‘I Got This Email’ is a genius song, brought up to date with refreshed political references, and there’s a new song also about what might happen if the internet broke. As popular as these songs are though, it would be doing the quality of the songwriting a disservice to think of these as where Varley excels and I think the beauty of the set is probably the effortless ease from which he can switch from making you laugh out loud to making you want to cry and think more deeply about what life is all about. The show ends with my favourite song ‘King for King’ and it seems a fitting end to a cracking performance.

Having had a hectic touring schedule this year, Varley has announced that he’s planning to take an extended break to spend time with his wife and their recently born daughter, but he’s vowed he will return, and I know I’ll be sure to get along to more shows if his as soon as he does.

False Heads @ The Ferret

First bit of advice: Listen to False Heads new EP ‘Less Is Better’. It’s an absolute banger. In fact you should take the time to listen to their entire back catalogue, because it’s crazy good. In a recent interview, FH’s frontman Luke Griffiths described his songwriting as “somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Noel Gallagher”. That seems like a pretty bold claim, but listen to False Heads and he does kind of have a point. There’s a raw punk rock energy that keeps grunge fans like me happy, whilst simultaneously there’s the melody and swagger of Brit Pop thrown in there to help keep their sound more accessible, with doses of The Libertines and Queens Of The Stone Age also in the mix for good measure. It makes for a great concoction that’s seen them start to gather a fair amount of attention from the British music press.

Second piece of advice: if False Heads play a show near to you, make sure you go along. Unfortunately the people of Preston didn’t heed this advice for the last Saturday in September. Myself and a handful of friends had purchased tickets for this show several weeks in advance, fully expecting that this was likely to get close to selling out (hey, it does happen at The Ferret!!! Manchester rockers The Blinders have sold out the venue for their show there next month). However, with a few days left before the gig the promoter put out a message to say the gig was now going to be free entry, seemingly in an attempt to try and get some bodies through the door. Even then, barely anyone turned up, and of the small crowd gathered I’d be surprised if there were even a dozen that were actually there because they wanted to watch the band.

Opening the night were local band All Hail Hyena. Given the effort these guys put in to putting on a show it was a great shame there weren’t more people there to witness it, taking the stage wearing matching pyjamas and adorning day-glo facepaint, highlighted by the black light they’d set up on stage. There was an assortment of oddities displayed across the front of the stage, and they even handed out songbooks to the crowd in case anyone wanted to singalong. Their song ‘Licky, Licky’ was preceded by lollipops being given out to everyone, so we all had something to lick along with.

The songs themselves were a mixture of catchy poppy rock songs and quirky plinky plonkers that reminded me quite a bit of Everything Everything, with some heavier guitar thrown in there every now and again too, and even a brief stint of death metal vocal. Many of the songs ended abruptly and unpredictably, until the point in the night where the abrupt end became really predictable, but I still enjoyed it and will definitely be along to watch them again some time.

Widnes wrestling loving alt rockers Salt The Snail were due to appear next, but unfortunately had to pull out of the show on the day. A real shame, as they’re another band who are a spectacle to watch, and were one of the reasons I opted to go to the Preston False Heads show and not the sold out gig in Manchester the night before. Again, if STS play a show near you, make sure you get along. You won’t regret it.

And so onto Londoners False Heads. I’ve said for a while now, one true test of whether a band are any good live is whether they can turn it on when the crowd aren’t all that interested. In truth, it’s a test that normally applies to opening acts, the support acts that people aren’t interested in because they want to see the main event. It’s a little strange to apply the same test to the headliners. This was my first time watching False Heads, but having followed coverage of their other gigs I knew what to expect – their incendiary live performances are a large part of how they are managing to grow their following.

I’m happy to report that they didn’t disappoint. Luke was really energetic on stage, writhing about and dropping to his knees, or climbing on the seating to the side of the stage or even up on top of his amp (…please, someone buy him a bigger amp! It will help make the amp climbing so much more dramatic!), whilst Barney Nash on drums provided really tight backing vocals as well as being spokesman in-between songs and keeping the set flowing. Jake Elliot completes the trio, coolly delivering the bass whilst Luke flings himself around the stage.

The set opened with ‘Yellow’ the lead single from ‘Less Is Better’ which with its fast paced punky riff is a great start to proceedings, and set the tempo for the night. They play my absolute favourite FH track ‘Slew’ with its taunting chorus of “You’ll never learn” and outro that showcases the band at their most brutal QOTSA-esque best.

‘Twentynothing’, also from their debut ‘Gutterpress’ EP also gets an outing, as does ‘Help Yourself’ from ‘Less Is Better’, which really reminds me of The Presidents Of The United States Of America, and is another personal highlight. There are also several new songs sprinkled through the set, and my impression is that these all leaned towards the grimier rocky end of their spectrum, which is right up my street.

The one-two punch of ‘Retina’ and then ‘Wrap Up’ were a great end to the show… well kind of… with it now being a free gig and an open door policy there were a handful of drunks who staggered in for the last 5 minutes of the set who then demanded an encore… having seemingly caught the band a bit off guard, there was a slightly awkward few minutes where they were originally going to do a reprise of ‘Yellow’, before deciding instead to close out with a bit of a jam session. It was a pretty awesome jam, and it will be interesting to see if it ends up being developed into a full song – whilst it felt kind of special to watch, the drunken antics of the late arriving punters left a slightly sour taste and I was kind of a bit embarrassed given it was a home town gig for me. The band packed up and left pretty sharply after that.

I really enjoyed their performance though, and it’s left me desperate for a chance to go see the band again, hopefully with a room full of people that will appreciate them a bit more. I really do think False Heads are on the verge of big things, and hopefully one day I can look back in fondness on the time I saw them play such a small venue.

I also hope the people of Preston can wake up to the fact that we’re lucky that a venue like The Ferret puts on so many good bands and if we’re not prepared to support shows like these, the music scene in Preston is going to end up being poorer for it.

Dinosaur Pile-Up @ The Parish

Anyone who’s read this site regularly will notice that despite the fact I’ve never dedicated an entire blog post to them, the name Dinosaur Pile-Up has come up pretty often. It’s fair to say that I’m a big fan. In fact despite being nearer to 40 years of age than 30, and the fact that I work a mundane job in IT, have a mortgage, and am married with two young children, it’s probably a better description to call me a completely tragic fan-girl.

What’s so good about them? I find it really hard to put my finger on it. I don’t think they’re a revolutionary, mould breaking, genre defining type act. Some people write them off as grunge wannabes. But personally…. I f*cking LOVE DPU! I still remember really vividly the very first time I listened to them. I came across ‘Mona Lisa’ on You Tube (it’s a really cool video, you should check it out here) at the back end of 2010, and I remember listening to it in my kitchen. Within the first 30 seconds of hearing the song I knew they were right up my street. I binged listened to as much as I could get my hands on online, and ordered their recently released ‘Growing Pains’ album straight away.

When it turned up I was not disappointed. It’s an absolute banger of an album packed end to end with big riffs and awesome tunes. I spent my teens listening to 90s grunge, and then rather than fall in to the Brit Pop camp got into nu-metal later on. Off the back of this, I find the music I love the most is music that’s really heavy but still holds a decent melody. ‘Growing Pains’ fitted the bill perfectly, and quickly became my go to album. I went and got tickets to go see them perform as soon as I could, my first show being at Soundcontrol in Manchester in March 2011… And it turns out live, they’re pretty f*cking awesome too.

I’ve been hooked ever since. Album two ‘Nature Nurture’ is a bit more pop-punk, but is also f*cking amazeballs and album three, the slightly darker and heavier ‘Eleven Eleven’ continues the legacy… Unlike other bands that have released awesome first albums but then faded away, DPU have never let me down.

That still doesn’t really do justice to why I like them so much. I guess listening to a banging DPU riff is like someone’s plugged directly into the dopamine receptors in my brain and turned them up to 11. It just makes me happy. Going to a show, jumping around like a loon and singing my heart out to all the songs puts a massive grin on my face and makes me even happier!

But anyways, I’m probably supposed to be reviewing a show or something… Ah yes. DPU announced the massive news this year that they were going to be playing the main stage at Reading/Leeds festival. HUGE!!! To see a band you’ve followed from early on make it to the big stage is amazing, and makes you kind of feel proud. But no way was I going to hit up either festival… I’m waaaaay too old for that shit! They did however, also announce a warm up show the day before their Leeds appearance at The Parish in Huddersfield. WIN!!! They also teased that this show would be the first outing for some of the new songs from their forthcoming fourth record. BONUS!!!

The chance to hear new stuff made me extra excited. Sometimes, watching a band you love playing new stuff is a total drag. You just want them to get on with playing the songs you know and love. I feel differently about DPU though, firstly because, as mentioned already, their new material has never let me down, but also because I have such fond memories of them playing unreleased stuff before. When they were touring ‘Growing Pains’ they used to play ‘Should’ and I remember being really into it from the very first listen. I also have fond memories of “Radvent” where in the lead up to Christmas front man Matt Bigland released previews of demos recorded for ‘Nature Nurture’. ‘In My Room’ and ‘Thread’ (later known as ‘Hanging by a Thread’) were both posted up on Soundcloud, and again, I loved both songs on first play… the only shame being that none of the above songs actually made the cut when ‘Nature Nurture’ was finally released (though thankfully all three can subsequently be found on the ‘Nurtured’ EP that was released a few years later).

Anyways – my ticket to the Huddersfield show was duly purchased. This was my first visit to The Parish. Living in Lancashire, most of the gigs I go to are in Manchester, but I do get across to Leeds pretty regularly. Huddersfield is in between the two, so I’d had my eye on The Parish for a while as a venue I wanted to visit. They book some pretty decent bands, but DPU was the first one that made sense for me to go along to.

The gig space itself seems to be a converted garage at the back of the pub. It’s tiny! Again, regular readers will note that I love a small venue! Despite me being in double digits in terms of DPU shows, this was definitely the smallest venue I’d seen them at. It was a sell out show though, so it was also packed. Perfect!

Opening up were California rockers Teenage Wrist. I’d listened to their album ‘Chrome Neon Jesus’ before the show and I’d enjoyed it without necessarily being blown away by it. Their live performance though carried extra energy, and made it one of those performances where all of a sudden the songs make more sense. There seemed to be a few bona fide Teenage Wrist fans in the audience, but the whole crowd gave them a really good reception, set closer ‘Stoned Alone’ being a highlight.

Then on to the main event. Even during sound checks the crowd were getting excited. Off the back of DPU’s last UK tour a bunch of guys started up a DPU Fanclub page on Instagram (there meme game is hot, you should check them out here). The lads that run it have managed to build a bit of a community around the page, and folk that attend DPU shows regularly are all starting to get to know each other. There was a gathering of that community right at the front. Chatting to guys I found out people had travelled from the likes of Milton Keynes, Birmingham and Manchester to be at this one off show… I once made a three hour round trip to Carlisle to catch a DPU midweek show, so it’s kind of nice to realise I’m not the only DPU nut. There was genuine excitement amongst people about hearing new stuff.

The set opened with ‘Arizona Waiting’ and the crowd were in to it straight away, screaming the words and bouncing along. It was followed by ‘Peninsula’, a song I wasn’t so into when I first heard it, but it’s a live staple and a crowd favourite that I’m now hooked on, and then on to ‘Birds and Planes’ which is the opening track from ‘Growing Pains’ and one of my all time favourites.

Throughout the set there was a decent mixture of stuff from ‘Growing Pains’ (‘My Rock and Roll’ and ‘Traynor’ also got a play) and from ‘Nature Nurture’ (including ‘White T-Shirt and Jeans’ and title track ‘Nature Nurture’) plus a cover of Weezer’s ‘Say It Ain’t So’. I only realised afterwards, that aside from anthemic set closer ’11:11′ there weren’t any other tracks from third album ‘Eleven Eleven’ – perhaps after three years of promoting the record the band are a bit fed up of it.

And then of course there was the new stuff. The band played three new tracks: ‘Thrash Metal Cassette’, ‘Around The Bend’ and ‘Pouring Gasoline’. And they were all face meltingly awesome!

‘Thrash Metal Cassette’ starts with a fast frantic shouty verse that kind of reminded me of the Foo Fighters’ ‘White Limo’, before hitting a more upbeat chorus with a melodic and harmonious “heeeeey”, the best bit being a dramatic pause in the middle of the song where Mike bashes out a beat and then, even though no one had heard the song before, everyone knew exactly the moment the riff was going to kick back in, the room bouncing as one (it gave me a serious goosebumps moment!).

‘Around The Bend’ was another upbeat effort, definitely channeling the band at their Weezer-esque best and ‘Pouring Gasoline’ was more of the same good stuff.

Speaking to all the die hard fans after the show, everyone was really pumped about the new stuff, and I have to admit, Bigland and the boys have done it again.

The very next day a UK wide November wide tour was announced (with Gender Roles as one of the support acts no less) …I’d hoped to get to a handful of the shows, but it transpires that my wife is going to be abroad at the same time, meaning I have to stay home and adult instead. So it looks like I’ll only be able to make the opening night of the new tour in Leeds. I can’t wait to get that next DPU fix though and the chance to hear all the new stuff again. And fingers crossed album four is not far away. Really exciting times for the band. I love watching them grow and go from strength to strength!


Pulled Apart by Horses / WEIRDS / JOHN / The Hiding Place @ The Sugarmill

It feels like aaaaaages since I’ve written a blog entry and even longer since I’ve done a proper gig review as opposed to an overview of a festival. I was certainly feeling an itch that needed to be scratched, so when this show in Stoke came up on my Instagram feed, I knew I had to try and get along.

I’m not sure how I missed this one off show in the first place as it’s been promoted for a few months now, but with three bands on the bill I’m a huge fan of, it felt like one I shouldn’t miss, so with a last minute ticket purchased, I set off down the M6 for the 1hr 20min journey.

This was my first ever visit to Stoke and The Sugarmill. There was a car park just over the road from the venue that was only £1 for the evening which was a bonus. The venue itself is big enough to feel like a proper venue, but still small enough to get that intimate feeling, and definitely somewhere I’d be happy to visit again to go watch bands.

First up were local band The Hiding Place. In all honesty they’re weren’t really my cup of tea. They had a kind of emo mixed with hair metal/post nu-metal edge that kind of reminded me of the likes of Thrice, Avenged Sevenfold or Bullet for My Valentine. Their lead singer has a serious set of pipes though, his vocal range being really impressive and almost operatic at times, and the set was pretty tight, even if stylistically it wasn’t my thing. If you are a fan of that style of music they are definitely worth checking out.

Next up were JOHN, one of the main reasons I decided to take the trip. I’d seen them earlier in the year in Manchester and really enjoyed them, and have continued to listen to them since. Based in London, they don’t manage to get up north very often, and in fact myself and a friend were even thinking about trying to get across to Europe in the autumn so we can catch them playing on tour with IDLES.

So how are they best described? Loud. Frantic. Raw. I’m still amazed how much noise they make for a two-piece, and I’m still sure no other drumming front man is as energetic as drummer John, whilst guitarist Johnny cooly goes about his business banging out the riffs.

Opener ‘Balfron’ is a great start to the set and sets the pace for the rest of the performance. Still early in the night, and JOHN still being a relatively obscure act (though hopefully more exposure on tour with IDLES will help with this) the crowd are a little tentative with only a few of us gathering near the front. I enjoyed toe tapping and singing along with the set which included a host of songs from their album ‘God Speed In The National Limit’ including personal favourites ‘Squad Vowels’ and ‘Ghost Printer’ (a song I randomly heard over the stereo in a bar in Bristol the other week!), as well as a new song thrown into the mix (…I’m officially crap at paying attention when a band introduces a new song, so no idea what it was called).

Another really enjoyable set from them and one that’s definitely rekindled the pipe dream of getting out on the continent to try and catch them again.

Next were WEIRDS from Leeds. I find it really difficult to try and pigeon hole this band. A quick internet search brings up the term “psych grunge”, which I’m not sure is a real thing, but if it is, WEIRDS are pioneering it. They combine rhythmic bass lines, dark and eery synthesisers and jangly guitars that break out of to grimy, heavy riffs. I’ve seen them play a handful of times now and the musical cacophony is only bettered by the intensity of the performance. Singer Aidan is not averse to taking a wander into the crowd screaming in the faces of his audience whilst stomping around in an unhinged manner. This was the first time I’d experienced the bass player and guitarist also jumping in to the crowd to finish the set.

I’ve only ever seen WEIRDS in support slots (guttingly, I was abroad when they did a headline tour to promote debut album ‘Swarmculture’ last year) so hats off to them for making sure they put on a real show every single time – these guys never just phone it in. ‘Old World Blues’ and ‘Phantom’ stand out for me as the best mosh-alongers, though I do love the changes of pace and dance beats used in ‘Valley of Vision’, and ‘Weird Sun’ is becoming the customary set closer that sees the performance get more chaotic.

They seem to have been a little quiet of late, so was great to see them back out performing. I’m looking forward to more from these guys in the future.

And so on to Pulled Apart By Horses. By all accounts this was to be the last PABH headline show before they go in to hiding to put together album five. I’ve been a fan since their debut album, but it took until last year and the release of fourth album ‘The Haze’ for me to actually see them perform. This was my fourth time watching them since then though. It really is a cracking album and it’s a testament to it that most of their set comes from it. ‘The Haze’, ‘The Big What If’, ‘Hotel Motivation’, ‘Flash Lads’ and ‘Prince Of Meats’ all get an outing. There are nods to their older material too with ‘V.E.N.O.M.’ and ‘Lizard Baby’ from their respective second and third albums. That first, eponymous album was for me one of THE albums to reignite the British alt rock and underground scene, so I was really glad to see songs from it performed also with ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’, ‘Meat Balloon’ (again! …they played it at Liverpool Calling and I thought it was gonna be a one off) and iconic set closer ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’ all being played.

Again, every time I see PABH play they seem to put in so much energy. Guitarist James Brown is like a coiled spring that periodically explodes around the stage, whilst frontman Tom Hudson is also a really animated performer head banging and contorting his body in time to the music. Hudson is another frontman who seems to like spending time in the crowd, but tonight was the first time I didn’t see this happen, as the Stoke crowd were noticeably subdued, unfortunately not seeming in the mood to reciprocate the energy on the stage. There was no barrier between the stage and the crowd, yet strangely a weird little pocket developed that kind of disconnected the band from the audience. Especially during ‘Meat Balloon’, a song I love losing my sh*t to, I tried to gee people up and try and get people more in to the gig, but it wasn’t to be. Are all Stoke crowds like that? Or did I just catch them on an off night?

Ultimately it didn’t spoil the show for me. I can happily go in to my own little moshing bubble when I’m listening to heavy music I really love, but gigs where the crowd connect both with the band and with each other do definitely leave you feeling more fulfilled at the end of the night.

So it sounds like this will be my last chance for a PABH fix for a while. I’ll await news of album five eagerly, and hoping there’ll be more to come from the WEIRDS and JOHN camps too.

As for Stoke, I’m sure I’ll be back. The Sugarmill seems a really decent gig space and if they can continue to attract line ups like this, I doubt I’ll be able to stay away, but c’mon Stoke peeps, sort your sh*t out and get up for it!!!

2000 Trees 2018


This was my second year at 2000 Trees festival in Cheltenham. Last year, I’d heard so many good things about the festival that I booked my tickets before any bands had been announced. Subsequently a line up that included all my very favourite bands was released including Pulled Apart By Horses, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Tigercub, Jamie Lenman, Black Peaks, Puppy and Milk Teeth amongst others. I had a superb weekend away.

This year, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back or not. Having seen such an amazing line up the year before, surely this year couldn’t be as good? So I decided to wait until the acts were announced… and when they were, I was pretty underwhelmed. Out of the first wave of bands revealed, only Turbowolf caught the eye. Yet I knew how special the festival was. It has a really great atmosphere and a crowd of people that are genuine music enthusiasts, as opposed to just wanting to go get wasted all weekend. I still didn’t want to miss out.

So I made a compromise, and decided to volunteer as a steward. Stewarding involves working a 4 hour shift each day of the festival; a morning, an afternoon and an evening. It means your ticket only costs a fiver, plus you get fed a meal during each shift and you get access to the VIP facilities.

In the lead up to the festival, more bands were added to the bill, and more names that I knew I’d want to see, but ultimately by the time the stage times were announced, there were only 5 performances across the entire weekend that I knew I wanted to go to. Stewarding still seemed like a decent option.

As a steward you’re also required to travel to the festival a day early, which meant being on site Wednesday evening when England played their World Cup semi-final versus Croatia. Luckily they screened the match for us, as well as providing a welcome barbecue and even some free drinks. On checking into the stewarding office they were happy to try and work around the bands you want to see, and I got assigned a shift pattern that meant I could go watch all of the acts I most wanted to.

The next day my festival kicked off with the early stewarding shift from 8am to midday. I got to be the ‘Family Camping Police’ having to tell arriving festival-goers not to camp in the family section unless they had kids. Having finished at midday, the festival didn’t actually officially start until 2pm, so I had chance to wander around and reacquaint myself with the Upcote Farm site.

Music for me started with Haggard Cat doing a short, unannounced set of Nirvana covers on top of a beer van. An awesome start to the weekend.

I got to see so many awesome bands over the 3 days. Too many to properly review, but in short there were two main groups:

  • Bands I already love who smashed it  included Turbowolf, Press to Meco, Sœur (twice), Black Peaks, Haggard Cat (also twice), Gender Roles and a very hungover Demob Happy.
  • Bands I didn’t really know before, but definitely need to hear more of such as Avalanche Party, Forever Cult, Basement and Fangclub (who closed their set with a ridiculously good cover of ‘Heart-Shaped Box’)

My other stewarding shifts were the Friday afternoon, which I spent welcoming new attendees and handing out wristbands, and then Saturday night from 8pm-Midnight which I got to spend at the Forest Stage supporting security. I felt very lucky to see so much good music in-between all of that.

But whilst ‘Trees is soooo much about the good music, I’ve also come to realise that this isn’t what makes it special. I really think the people who go (as well as people working there) help create a really special vibe and almost a sense of community.

For instance, though I went to the festival alone, I actually ended up camping with two guys I’d camped with last year. They were really welcoming the year before, and seeing them again was like bumping in to old friends. We actually ended up hanging out more this year (they were there to steward too), and a few other guys (all strangers before the weekend) also joined in with the group.

Then there were the people inside the arena who just enjoyed good music. I had 2-3 moments during bands when kindred spirits who were in to the same song would make eye contact and before you know it you’re sharing hugs and high fives and maybe even a drink (…props to the guy that was feeding me Red Stag during Sœur’s Neu Stage set!).

And you even get to enjoy some camaraderie with the bands too. I had drinks and even some silent disco dancing with various bands that I’ve come to know throughout the weekend. And that wasn’t even using my VIP access, that was just bumping in to them in the arena, as they seemed to be really enjoying the festival too.

For anyone who’s considering it, I’d definitely recommend stewarding – it’s a really nice way to have some involvement in the festival and without volunteers the event will struggle. Having said that, I’m not sure I’ll do it again, as there’s so much going on over the weekend even if the band line up isn’t to your taste, and it was pretty tiring fitting everything in as well as putting in a shift.

I came away from the weekend with such a buzz. I think I watched less music at this year’s festival, and there were definitely fewer bands that I really knew, yet I somehow came away having an even better time than the year before. And as for next year? Well, I went and bought my ticket already! See you next year ‘Trees!


God Damn @ The Flapper

God Damn are one of the bands that have reignited my passion for live music. I first saw them opening for the Foo Fighters at Old Trafford back in 2015, a show where I also realised that stadium shows are just not my thing. As iconic as the Foos are, live music when you’re packed in with 70,000 other people just doesn’t work for me. I was already hooked on God Damn’s debut album ‘Vultures’ by that point, and their performance was the highlight for me that day.

Fast forward a few months and I got to watch them again, this time at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen. The dank underground venue a stark contrast to that first gig, and I reckon there were probably less than 50 people there – it was awesome, and one of my favourite gigs to date.

I saw them once more a few months later as part of an all-dayer in Leeds along side Dinosaur Pile-Up and Heck. That’s over 2 years ago now, during which time the band have released a second album (2016’s ‘Everything Ever’) and recruited a third band member. Since then I’ve managed to cruelly miss every opportunity to see them again, shows always being in the wrong place or at the wrong time.

So, having been quiet for a while, they announced that they would play their only show of the summer at The Flapper in Birmingham as part of the venue’s closing party. I didn’t want to miss out again, so a road trip was duly planned, keeping it classy with a four hour Megabus journey there, and then the night bus home again at 2am.

I’ve never been to a gig in Birmingham before, let alone The Flapper. The venue is located on the canal, split over 2 floors, but you enter on to the first floor via a bridge, with stairs taking you down to a canal side yard and the gig room. With the UK in the midst of a truly epic heatwave, the yard was absolutely rammed. The people of Birmingham are so friendly though, and myself and friend David were invited to sit with some of the locals, who kept us company most of the night.

Venturing inside, the gig room is tiny. The stage is more of a step and the roof is ridiculously low. So many great bands have played here in the last few years including Demob Happy, Tigercub, Dinosaur Pile-Up and Future of the Left. Kind of gutted that I’ve missed out on the chance to see so many of my favourite bands in such an intimate setting.

The land the building sits on is due to be developed in to flats, with the weekend I was there supposed to be being the last the venue sees in operation, but at the 11th hour they’ve been given a 12 month extension on their lease. Moves are still on going to try and secure a longer term future. So rather than a closing party, the weekend was rebranded as a celebration of being awarded the extension.

The line up for the event seemed to have chopped and changed a half dozen times, and unexpectedly first band on are You Dirty Blue. I was only able to catch a couple of their songs, but really enjoyed what I heard, the two-piece producing fuzzy blues rock with a modern twist.

Ghosts of Dead Airplanes are next up, delivering a punky but powerful set. Their frontman plays melodic but heavy guitar whilst he delivers clever lyrics that provide a commentary on modern life, his eyes fixed on the crowd with a slightly unhinged stare. The energetic bass player bounced around behind him in between backing vocal duties, and pounding drums completed the trio. Really loved this set, the band have a real edgy feel to them and I definitely hope to catch them again some time.

After a break for a show from a fire performer in the yard, it’s time for the main event: God Damn. The room was packed. Frontman Thom takes to the stage alone, and greets the crowd with the opening to ‘Skeletons’. Surely one of GD’s best tracks, I’m used to seeing this deployed as the finale to a set. However, rather than the punch in the face that normally greets you at the start of a God Damn show, this felt like a friendly welcome, and it’s evident how many fans are present as everyone sings along to the stripped back and mellow intro… already there seems like a special atmosphere in the room. Drummer Ash and keyboard player James take there place on stage just in time for the track to explode in to the main riff, the crowd also jumping in to life.

What an awesome start to the set, the room absolutely buzzing and the energy levels through the roof. The entire set stayed at this intense level. There was a really good mixture of tracks with a few new ones thrown in to the mix along with several tracks from the ‘Vultures’ album and a couple from ‘Everything Ever’. Personal highlights were ‘Dead To Me’, ‘Silver Spooned’ (which was introduced with the instagram sensation ‘I don’t remember how this song goes’) and oldie ‘Heavy Money’.

This really was the perfect storm of a gig. Band I love, playing in a tiny, dirty, sweaty venue, to a packed audience of proper fans. Thom spent a lot of time in (or in fact crowd surfing on) the crowd, whilst set closer ‘Vultures’ sees a large chunk of the audience invited up on to the stage to sing (and mosh) along. One gig reviewer put it far more eloquently than me (see her version of events  here) when she described it as “there is no us and them tonight, the band and crowd are one, fuelling off one another and having the time of their lives” – the night really did have a feel of community about it.

The world needs gigs like this, which means we need venues like The Flapper. Hopefully planners in Birmingham will see fit to allow the venue to remain. Pretty drunk, drenched in sweat, and with a giant grin on my face, this was definitely a night that’s going to stay long in memory.