Aug 122018

Craig Chisholm reviews Iron Maiden at AECC. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

One of the biggest names in the history of heavy metal returned to Aberdeen for the second time in just 18 months to perform an exclusive Scottish date in front of a sold-out audience.
With the larger Hydro venue in Glasgow being used as part of the 2018 European Athletics Championships, the Exhibition Centre provided the bands only date north of the border in what must count as an intimate show for a band more used to headlining stadiums and festivals.

For metal fans in the North East, Glasgow’s loss was Aberdeen’s gain as the AECC hosted the most extravagant, theatrical, over-the-top, and, arguably, one of the greatest performances ever seen in the arena.

However, before they were treated to Maiden’s powerhouse set they also had one of the leading lights in modern Metal to contend with. Killswitch Engage have been around since the turn of the century and provided an energetic, pulverising set that’s rarely delivered by headliners, let alone a support band.

The Metalcore band from Massachusetts stormed through a dozen songs in their all-too-brief set. From opener ‘Strength of Mind’ to the closing cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ the band were relentless in their energy.

Pausing briefly only to praise the “beautiful city” of Aberdeen – and to speak of his hatred towards our wasps! – the bands set was a masterclass in arena heavy metal that would have blown many a headliner off their own stage.

However, Iron Maiden are not of that many. With four decades of touring and recording behind them they are consummate professionals and masters of the stage – despite all of the band now nearing what most normal people would consider retirement age.

Fortunately, Maiden are anything but normal and retirement seems a long way off as the six band members show energy and stamina on stage that would leave people half their age gasping for breath and begging for a rest.

With no new album to promote, the tour is thematically linked to their ‘Legacy of the Beast’ video game which gives them a good excuse to trawl through their back catalogue and pull out some deep cuts, old favourites and tireless classics.

Opening with ‘Aces High’ from 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ LP, the stage is, quite literally, set for a show of epic proportions as a near full size Spitfire is dangled above the band as they power tirelessly through the opener.

Singer Bruce Dickinson comes tearing onto the stage as the track opens and jumps, leg wide open, in the air for a number that’s quite epic, even by their standards.

After the song has finished, and the spitfire has retreated into the stage and out of sight, a quick one-two of old classics ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ follows before Dickinson addresses the crowd for what he says will be the only time during the bands marathon set.

Referring to the spitfire, he praises the “brave men, a third [his] age” that were fighting Nazis and fascism.

It’s a thought provoking and humbling monologue that holds resonance in the current climate of fear and uncertainty and the rise of the so-called alt-right.

He then introduces the next song and how much of an honour is to play it in Scotland before the band play their Scottish themed track ‘The Clansman’.

From then till the main set closer -the eponymously titled ‘Iron Maiden’ – the music is left to do the talking.

However, the band’s theatricality is given full reign during most of these tracks – the bands mascot, the giant zombie-like figure Eddie, comes onstage to engage in a swordfight with Dickinson during ‘The Trooper’.

Dickinson lugs a lit-up cross around the stage whilst performing ‘Sign of The Cross’.

A giant demonic head appears at the rear of the stage during erstwhile classic ‘The Number of the Beast’ and Dickinson fires flame throwers at a giant winged angelic figure during ‘The Flight of Icarus’.

At any other concert such theatrics would be in danger of falling into Pantomime.

But Maiden perform it with a knowing wink and a nod to their fans who are lapping up every move on stage by the legendary six piece.

The band wrap up the near two hour long show with a triple song encore of 1987’s ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and a couple of early 80s classics ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and ‘Run to The Hills’.

Despite the length of the set and the energy sapping heat, there’s no doubt that the band and their fans – many of whom have travelled from all over Europe to watch them – could have happily went for another couple of hours of, what surely, must be one of the greatest stage shows in Maiden’s history.

Jul 042018

Craig Chisholm reviews ‘Enjoy’ music festival at Hazlehead Park. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

Enjoy Music festival returned for the fourth year on a fun packed, sun soaked weekend that drew the crowds, had some big name artists and will have left punters looking forward to next year’s event.
After three years of successful one day festivals the organisers took the brave step of making this year’s festival a two day affair.

And, after a bit of rain last year, also took the decision to make the main stage inside a giant 3000 capacity big top, rather than outdoors – but, typically, the Scottish weather conspired to make it to one of the hottest weekends of the year with not a cloud in sight.

Gates opened at 4 o’clock on the Friday afternoon, when a lot of attendees would still be at work, school or college. But those that did make it early were treated to electric sets by Fat Hippy Records signings, the Scottish indie band Miss Lucid and Manchester band Alias Kid, who are signed to Creation Record’s Svengali Alan McGhee’s management team.

After the up and coming bands had warmed the crowd up it was time for the big names to take the main stage.  Mark Morris, frontman of Britpop band The Bluetones, played an acoustic set that was well received by his fans.

With The Bluetones numbers such as ‘Slight Return’ and ‘Cut Some Rug’ he had no trouble commanding the stage and warming up the crowd for the next band on the bill – another Britpop band with a string of Top 10 hits behind them.

The tent is rammed for Cast.

They do not disappoint those in attendance.

Pulling such hits as ‘Sandstorm’, ‘Finetime’ and the ballad ‘walkaway’ out of their back catalogue has the tent buzzing.

But it’s their debut hit, ‘Alright’ that is the highlight with the crowd signing along word for word.

Completing the bill on the Friday, is a headlining set by dance legends Faithless.
The band’s keyboard player and writer, Sister Bliss, is behind the decks and delivers a high tempo, energetic set that has everyone dancing.

Filled with classic dance tracks, contemporary floor fillers and a healthy dose of Faithless’ biggest numbers she brings the crowd to a frenzy and closes off the first day of the festival in style.

Saturday brings in a bigger crowd and has more stages and family entertainment for all.

With amusements from Codona’s, bungee trampolines, Nerf Wars, craft workshops, a storytelling tent, face painting and much more there’s plenty there to keep kids entertained whilst their parents enjoy the music.

Performances in the family big top prove to be popular and with Love Rara providing walk around characters from Disney and superhero movies there’s a lot of happy youngsters on site. On the main stage, the music provides a wonderful soundtrack on a hot, sunny day.

Blues influenced rockers Full Fat play some engaging, competent blues influenced rock, whilst local band The Capollos storm through a frenetic indie rock set that has earned them a strong following locally and across Scotland.

Another Aberdeen band that are making waves are Cold Years. No less a publication than rock magazine Kerrang! described them as an ‘Aberdeen five piece [that] prove beyond doubt that rock ‘n’ roll lives’ and it’s certainly a sentiment that those who watched them that would agree with.

Glasgow band Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 are, quite possibly, the perfect festival act and will have gained a lot of new fans today.
An explosion of colour, the band engage the audience and make them part of the performance.
‘Dance Off’ is exactly what it says it is with children and adults alike strutting their stuff. The entire audience are led around the tent by a band member carrying a lollipop man’s sign to ‘Cross the Road’ and there’s a minor stage invasion by redheads to ‘Ginger Girl’.

Their eclectic mix of brass, disco, rock and humour is perfect for an event such as this, uniting old and young in one happy, joyous collective.

Dodgy singer Nigel Clark follows them with an acoustic set that includes hits such as ‘Staying Out for The Summer’ and ‘Good Enough’ to a rapt audience.

Welsh rap heroes Goldie Lookin’ Chain provide a humorous set with ‘Guns Don’t Kill People (Rapper’s Do)’ proving a popular highlight.

Over in the dance tent things are really hotting up – a day of beats and breaks is finished off with a couple of big names that have the tent rammed. The talented producer and DJ James Zabiela has the crowd dancing to a frantic and energetic set before handing over to one of the biggest names in dance music – Basement Jaxx.

The dance duo are no strangers to big stages and working large crowds as headlining performances at Glastonbury and Rockness with a full band prove.

In a smaller environment such as this they are flawless – with a back catalogue stretching back over 20 years they have no trouble at all and have the crowd eating out of their hand.

Meanwhile, the main stage is closing out to a couple of eclectic big names.

With 5 albums behind them, Starsailor have no problems working the big stage and pulling out some major hits. ‘Alcoholic’, ‘Silence is Easy’ and ‘Good Souls’ are particular highlights and has the crowd singing along in rapture.

After their set there’s a change of tempo as drum and bass act Sigma end the evening. Hidden behind a cloud of dry ice and flashing lights the duo gives a sensory overloaded set closing the festival in euphoric fashion.

With 10,000 people through the gates over the weekend, some stunning entertainment and beautiful weather Enjoy Music can only be declared a success yet again – here’s to next year and to another bill that will put Aberdeen firmly on the festival map.

May 032018

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Arkells and The Homeless Gospel Choir @ The Garage, 20th April 2018. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

It’s gig number 2155 for Frank Turner, as announced by the man himself from the stage.

However, for the venue, there’s only one number of gigs that matters tonight – and that’s zero. That’s how many are left at The Garage once Frank exits the stage after his encores.

It came as a shock to many of the Granite City’s gig goers and clubbers when it was announced that the venue was to close early May after 6 years of being one of the mainstays of the Aberdeen live music scene.

However, any notions of this being an evening of mourning are dispelled as soon as the first act takes to the stage in front of a healthy number of fans, despite the 6:30pm stage time.

The Homeless Gospel Choir is the nom de plume of Pittsburgh born folk-punk singer Derek Zanetti.

The punk aspect of his music is influenced by Green Day and the 90s explosion of US day-glo stadium acts rather than the original ’77 spirit of punk however.

By his own description, he’s an ‘overweight rock singer’.

With lyrics revolving around politics, mental health and angst, but delivered with a jokey aside he proves to be a popular draw, particularly to the younger members of the crowd.

Canadians Arkells are a different proposition – the lyrical themes may be similar but live they are much more polished and professional stage performers than Zanetti’s looser style.

Lead singer Max Kerman has the looks, moves and attitude that have been honed to perfection on larger venues in North America rather than the small stage he finds himself on tonight. In fact, the stage isn’t enough for him as it takes him only a few minutes to find himself on the barrier hanging over a willing audience who succumb instantly to his charms.

And the very notion of crowd and audience is blurred completely on a couple of occasions during their 40-minute set.

Only two songs in and he has pulled a young female fan out of the audience to play guitar quite competently alongside the band.

And another fan is hauled onstage for the final song where he sings with the band perfectly.
It’s possibly a bit gimmicky and cliched but it’s also quite touching and endearing and it will have won them new fans tonight and provide unforgettable memories for the young fans that performed with their idols.

Arkells play an energetic and fun set that serves to ramp the crowd up into even more frenzied anticipation for the night’s main act.

Frank Turner is another polished live act. After a couple of thousand gigs in venues of all shapes and sizes, festival stages and stadiums he’s a man with no fears treading the boards and honed the skills to the work the crowd into a frenzy.

Not that the crowd really require worked up – the sold-out venue is boiler room hot with a packed floor full of devoted Turner fans, almost wilting in the heat.

His new album – his eighth – ‘Be More Kind’ might not be released for another couple of weeks but that doesn’t stop four of its cuts getting an airing tonight, all of which go down a storm with the devoted crowd.

The rest of the set spans the full gamut of his career – reaching as far back to 2007’s ‘Sleep is for the Week’ as the track ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ is given as a solo performance by Turner during a 3-song acoustic interlude in the middle of the set.

The crowd aren’t here out of curiosity – this is a crowd of devoted fanatics of all ages here to see their hero. They know every word and sing along to every song, fully immersed in his performance.

It’s an unusual sight and sound to see 700 people hollering ‘There is no God so clap your hands together’ – they might not engage in worshipping a holy deity but, then again, there’s maybe no need to tonight whilst they worship at the altar of Frank Turner.

So, gig number 2155 for Frank Turner, and it’s a roaring success for him with a sweaty, joyous crowd fully immersed in his 100 minutes on stage.

But, by the time the clock reaches 2155, The Garage is emptying slowly as the night concludes and live music at yet another Aberdeen venue ends for the final time.

Turner would not have reached that amount of live performances if not for venues such The Garage.

So it not only leaves a gap in the Aberdeen scene, but in the UK scene as a whole. If venues keep on closing where will the next Frank Turner learn their trade and spread their message?

Apr 132018

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Three of the UK’s most highly tipped bands brought their unique talents to the Granite City as Manchester’s Cabbage, She Drew the Gun from Wirral, and Glasgow’s own Rascalton performed rapturous and well received sets to an appreciative crowd at The Tunnels.
Opening tonight’s triple bill were Rascalton.

The young Glaswegian’s performed a short, punky set that drew heavily from classic punk bands such as The Clash or the Sex Pistols but a post-Libertines indie aesthetic also shone through.

The band are no strangers to Aberdeen having played The Tunnels before – previously playing there as support to Baby Strange – as well as playing a headlining set at Café Drummond just before Christmas.

Frontman Jack Wyles is engrossing – his chiselled features hidden behind an unkempt mop of hair, whilst the way he attacks his guitar makes him look not unlike Wilko Johnson in his prime.

He has angelic features but a devil’s stare that makes his barked vocals and the bands shouty choruses compelling to listen to and hard to forget.

The band are back North in June to support Idles at The Tunnels.

It is highly recommended that if you’re going to that then make sure you’re there early to see them.

She Drew the Gun are a different proposition. No less intense, but in a quieter, subtler way.

Singer and guitarist Louis Roach performs a mix of poetry and psych-pop that has brought her and her band Radio airplay – championed by no less than Steve Lamaq on Radio 6 – and accolades such as winner of the Emerging Talent Competition that saw play the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury on 2016.

Roach is front and centre on stage, glad in a blue, sparkly hoodie with the hood drawn up which gives her an aura of mystery that suits the music perfectly.

She is a compelling, virtuoso guitar player – picked solos break through the dreamy, fuzzy riffs that anchor the music whilst she half whispers, half sings the lyrics. The music is dark and swampy reminiscent of classic PJ Harvey.

There’s only one slip in an otherwise flawless set as Roach forgets the lyrics to ‘Poem’ half way through. But she recovers well, acknowledges the mistake and wins the audience on side at that moment.

Headliners Cabbage are on a roll just now.

New album ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’ has been released to critical acclaim and has made it to number 21 in the BBC Album Charts as well as no.1 on the Official Cassette Charts.

Live in concert, they are fantastic – energetic and exuberant, never staying still as they blast through their own unique post-punk sound.

Frontmen Joe Martin and Lee Broadbent control proceedings from the front of the stage with different styles – Martin is icily cool and more detached whilst Broadbent is more manic and deranged looking.

Their song titles are compelling and confounding in equal measurers – ‘Arms of Pleonexia’, ‘Molotov Alcopop’, ‘Postmodernist Caligula’ and ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’. Those alone will have you reaching for the dictionary.
Beneath the sometimes-perplexing titles, there’s political discourse and juvenile humour in equal measure in their lyrics – ‘Dinner Lady’ might sing about having a ‘w**k in the quiche’ but is also a comment on the class divide, in this case in a private school.

Closer ‘Necroflat In the Palace’ has the chorus that will be ringing in their ears as they head home – ‘I was born in the NHS, I wanna die in the NHS’. There’s no encore as the sweat drenched band collapse off stage after their exhilarating set, a gesture of punk defiance against pop crowd pleasing acts.

Three bands then and all, to quote the title of Cabbage’s collection of EPs, ‘Young, Dumb and Full of…’. Maybe not so dumb though and if they are full of anything it’s life, exuberance and lots of promise.

Apr 052018

Craig Chisholm looks ahead to this summer’s ‘Enjoy’ music festival.

After last year’s successful festival that saw storming sets from Primal Scream, Chase & Status, The Little Kicks and many more, Enjoy Music returns to Hazlehead Park in June with a stellar line of dance and rock acts on the bill.

Now expanded to a two day festival, the fourth Enjoy boasts some of the biggest names in music – from Glastonbury headliners to Britpop legends.

Held over the weekend of Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd June, Aberdeen’s biggest outdoor music festival will see bands such as Starsailor, Cast, Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 and Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin’ Chain perform alongside DJ set from Faithless, Basement Jaxx, Sigma and James Zebeila.

Bluetones frontman Mark Morris and Dodgy singer Nigel Clark will also be attendance to provide crowd pleasing acoustic sets chock full of their Britpop classics.

Festival boss Russell Aitchison said:

“We’re delighted to have added these amazing acts, to make this our biggest line up ever. There’s a real range of music on offer over the weekend with something to suit all tastes.”

Marketing Director Mark Lenthall added:

“We’re here to give the North East a large-scale music festival we can all be proud of, and 2018 is shaping up to be just that. Tickets are selling fast and I am sure music lovers will want to be part of the Aberdeen’s biggest event this summer” 

But if you’re planning to attend then be quick – 2nd release tickets have already sold out and the third release of tickets in mid-March are already selling fast!

Tickets can be purchased at:

Apr 022018

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Stiff Little Fingers yearly St Patricks gigs at The Barrowlands in Glasgow are stuff of legend.

For 27 years they’ve played the iconic venue on the fabled night of Irish celebrations that has become a pilgrimage for their fans.

For fans in the North East, however, the Irish punk legends trip to the Granite City, around the same time of the year, has also become a regular pilgrimage as a sell out crowd tonight can testify.

This might have been the smallest of the three venues the band are playing in Scotland this tour but that didn’t stop them from giving a memorable show that pleased the energetic and loyal crowd.

Before the influential Irish punk legends hit the stage another bunch of influential punks step up to warm the crowd up.

Ruts DC have a long, and sometimes complicated, history that stretches back to the original punk days of 1977. But their music is more varied and eclectic than straight ahead rock with a strong reggae influence shining through in songs such as the mighty ‘Jah War’.

They run though a strong set of a dozen songs with punk classics ‘Babylon’s Burning’, ‘In a Rut’ and ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’ all going down a storm with the attentive crowd.

Headliners Stiff Little Fingers last couple of shows in Aberdeen have been at a different venue – The Garage – but they are no strangers to the Lemon Tree having played here numerous times to sell out crowds.

It’s a partisan audience that greet them as they walk out to the regular intro tape of ‘Go For It’. The crowd are a sea of SLF t-shirts and hoodies – and anyone not wearing one could have bought from the dozen or so on sale at their merchandise stall.

Singer and guitarist Jake Burns tells the crowd that this is going to be a set that explores more of the deep cuts from SLF’s ‘forgotten’ albums but that doesn’t stop them singing and pogoing along to tracks that cover all eras of the bands four decade career.

However, it’s the bands first three albums that made up the bulk of the set – ‘Tin Soldiers’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae’, ‘Safe as Houses’ and ‘Barbed Wire Love’ from that era are all given a blast.

As with Ruts DC, reggae is also an influence on the band and there’s a nod to that with cover versions of Bob Marley and the Wailer’s ‘Johnny Was’ and ‘Doesn’t Make it Alright’ by The Specials.

Completing the night with a finale of ‘Alternate Ulster’ the band walk off to triumphant applause from an adoring crowd that will already be planning to see them again next year, whatever the venue.

May 052015

With thanks to Graham Robertson, Blues Rock Aberdeen.

Vata Live - credit Andy Hibbs2

Virgil and the Accelerators.

With their incendiary and seemingly-telepathic live delivery, Virgil and the Accelerators will be playing at The Tunnels, Aberdeen on Friday 15 May, great news for live music lovers and aspiring local musicians.

At four years old, Virgil McMahon was playing his father’s mandolin and, by his early teens, he was absorbing the sounds of Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Joining his father’s band The Accelerators, it became apparent that Virgil’s destiny was sealed and the band was reborn as Virgil & The Accelerators.

In 2008, McMahon’s 14 year old brother Gabriel stepped up, quickly developing into a powerhouse drummer and the seeds were sown for the growth of a formidable band. The addition of Jack Alexander Timmis on bass, saw the final chapter written and the dynamics, raw energy and emotionally-charged power of this creative young act exploded on to the UK music scene.

Touring relentlessly across Europe in their own right and supporting Michael Schenker, Uriah Heep, Tracer and Wilko Johnson has built the band a loyal, growing fan base and with a 20-day tour of the UK about to start, fans are in for a real treat.

Now with two critically-acclaimed albums, The Radium and Army Of Three behind them, the band’s chemistry onstage is perfectly summed up by Pete Feenstra of Get Ready to Rock:

One minute guitarist Virgil dredges up a few Billy Gibbons licks, the next he’s going back to Keith Richard for source classic rock riffs, before he memorably loses himself in the moment and drags the audience to another place. He’s not on his own of course, as his brother Gabriel evokes the ghost of Keith Moon with furious excursions round his kit to launch the band on to another level. 

“And standing stage right is the indomitable Jack Alexander Timmis, the veritable anchor of the band, who makes sure the wild musical excesses are kept in check with some essential root notes, while his back-up vocals bring extra depth to the hooks.”

Check them out here:

The band will be performing at The Tunnels, Carnegies Brae, Aberdeen on Friday 15 May. Doors open at 1930. Advance tickets cost £10.00 and can be bought by calling 01224 641122 or online at


May 012015

Lemon Tree 26 April 2015; it’s been snowing, most people are cancelling their plans to stay home and be warm. The result is an audience size below what was expected for Wire. But completely undaunted and unphased, they air their new album Wire to Aberdeen’s hardcore, devoted live music fans. Suzanne Kelly reports. Pictures by Dod Morrison.

Wire_2_by_dod_morrison_april_2 I wish I’d stayed until the end. I wish I’d stayed until the end. Having to leave this show early is a huge regret a week later.

With a new album to promote, long-running, ever-evolving punk/art/rock act Wire played a, well – sweet and strong set to an audience that loved it.

The Lemon Tree was not packed, but almost everyone I’d ever met in Aberdeen who loves music was there.

One proud fan had bought everything the merchandise stall had to offer. A beautiful silver foil on black poster, signed by Wire, was his prized possession.

The geometric graphic was composed of many smaller elements making a striking, elegant, strong overall design. And that’s kind of how I see their music as well. Complex, perfectly executed percussion layered with bass, guitar and vocals combine; and rock-solid, cohesive and compelling music is the result.

As another person who loved the show said:

“they’re artists; this is art.” 

Wire formed around 1976 and today are Colin Newman (vocals, acoustic guitar , electric guitar, keyboards, and more); Graham Lewis (bass, effects, keyboards, vocals, backing vocals); Robert Grey (drums) and since 2012 or so Matt Simms (electric guitar, 12-string electric guitar, lap steel guitar, effects, keyboards)

Of this new album they’ve said:

“Their 13th studio album — simply titled ‘Wire’— comprises material that was written with the album in mind, but toured extensively first, as well as songs that Newman introduced to the group in the studio just prior to recording.

“The idea was to get the most spontaneous reaction possible from the musicians, and far from the rough and ready results one might expect from such a tack, Wire is full of swooning pop melodies with a ’60s tinge and an irresistible, near motorik rhythmic momentum. One can recognise certain melodic inflections, guitar and bass motifs, and drum rhythms from Wire’s idiosyncratic vocabulary but it has a remarkable freshness.”

The new guitarist Simms in particular seems to be enjoying himself and is smiling at his bandmates and the crowd; other than that the rest of the act seems focused on every note. I wonder how they’re feeling: it’s the end of the UK tour; it’s Sunday night; it’s snowing; they’re probably shattered. But they’re here and we’re glad of it.

A sound engineer is darting all over the place; some said as I left the vocals could have been higher in the mix and brighter, but I’ve no complaints myself.

No point in pretending I know what the new songs were or what the complete set list is. (If someone out there wants to share the set list, please do weigh in). What I did hear was infectious and beautifully delivered. Know the names of the songs? I wasn’t sure whether I was in the 1980s 90s or the future. But I liked it a lot.

If you want a sample, here is Joust & Jostle.

I’d not previewed the new album; this show was mainly dedicated to tracks from this their 13th album, the self-titled ‘Wire’. As my friend said later:

“They’ve finally put out an album named ‘Wire’ – its brilliant, it IS Wire.” 

I find them crisp, smart, sharp; the drummer is absolutely amazing; at one point I’m not at all sure how Simms is getting his guitar to create the most amazing sounds; I’m a bit mesmerised by this and several other passages.

My phone’s SoundHound app didn’t recognise any of the new pieces, which I thought I’d try for a variety of reasons; but I was far too busy listening to them to worry about it. But I’m sure that once this album’s been properly launched, everyone, even SoundHound will be familiar with this impressive new material. Aside from the people who came and stood directly in front of me after the third song and didn’t’ stop talking once, it was a gripped and attentive audience.

By the time this review is out, the UK tour will have finished; the band will tour the US in May. If you can’t get there, I’d get the album.

Is it punk? Is it new wave? Is it PostPunk? Is it electronica? Is it rock? Yes. And I’d like more of it.

Album and Wire info here:

Apr 182014

Northside3With thanks to Anton Pell.

On April 26th at Café Drummonds, Manchester baggy legends ‘Northside’ play as part of the bands 20 year reunion tour.
The band featured on Top of the Pops and played for the BBC at Wembley even after being banned from all BBC shows due to their debut hits drug reference titled ‘Shall We Take a Trip’.

They also stole the show in a famous Elland Road, Leeds gig with happy Mondays and The LA’s.

For the first time since then, the band are back together with all four original members for a reunion tour playing all their hits from their albums ‘Chicken Rythms’ Section.

The band quickly became cult legends and featured on the front cover of NME amongst other major music magazines. They had two hits in the American billboard charts and even a number one in Canada, knocked off the top by Nirvana’s ‘Smell like teen spirit’.

The band famously split when the Happy Mondays broke Factory Records when they were at their peak.

Tickets are available from for all the bands tour dates.

Here’s one of their songs – one which still made the top 20 despite being banned by the BBC.

Dec 242013

In her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer, Voice’s Julie Thompson pulls focus on The Bloody Marys Christmas Stocking at The Lemon Tree, Darth Elvis & the Imperials and Juicy Juicy Juice at The Moorings and The Lorelei, Brothers Reid and The Deportees at The Lemon Tree.

Marys1 - Credit Julie Thompson As Christmas is heading towards us at great speed, I went looking for seasonal musical offerings this week. Unfortunately, with two of the things on my schedule happening on the same evening, it meant a curtailed evening for both events.
Heading off to the Lemon Tree for The Bloody Marys, I encountered many more women than I am used to these days.

There was also an extreme preponderance of feather boas. Hardly surprising, given the nature of the reason we were all there. We were all there to party.

The Bloody Marys are a trio of guys who, considering what I had heard about them, were pretty sedately dressed in matching Christmas jumpers (a Reindeer pattern with a flashing red nose) for the first half of their set.

Marys2 - Credit Julie ThompsonI was waiting in the pit – which I had to myself – when they walked on and ripped straight into Fame, which quickly had the place jumping, followed by Disco Inferno & Mama Mia.

The stage was curtained by shimmering material, and a Christmas tree adorned the raised platform normally occupied by a drum kit.

Under the tree were a series of wrapped presents. Snowflakes dangled from the ceiling. All very festive.

My 3 songs were up so I wandered off up to the second tier as they began Pray – which they accompanied with choreographed boy band style dancing. At the end they had the first present giveaway – punters had to vote on who was the best dancer and the winner got to distribute a present to someone in the crowd.

I caught a glimpse of the contents of one of the parcels later on – they were limited edition Bloody Marys t-shirts.

Marys3 - Credit Julie ThompsonI went down into the dance area to get a bit of atmosphere before I had to leave for The Moorings. A Grease medley, Heart Attack, another Abba number, Hungry like the Wolf and Gloria later, I headed off, as Gimme Gimme Gimme began.

When I had arrived at The Lemon Tree, I bumped into someone I knew from a shop I frequent. I asked her how the second half went – apparently the guitarist & keyboard players reappeared in wee white frocks and the lead singer in an angel outfit. Stockings, wings, full make-up – the whole works.

It was a shame I missed the second half as it would have made for some fun photographs. Maybe I’ll be able to catch them next year.

So, a great gig for a girls night out and even the guys had fun – yes, I saw you there!

Darth1 - Credit Julie ThompsonSo, on to The Moorings and Darth Elvis.
I had timed my arrival to the estimated stage time for the main act, but I was lucky enough to catch the very end of the debut of Juicy Juicy Juice, as things were running a bit late.

I had time to grab a few shots and get my camera adjusted from Lemon Tree to Moorings settings.

Darth Elvis – now there’s a name that plays with the imagination.

From their Facebook page bio:

“Darth Elvis & The Imperials are a Star Wars themed Elvis tribute band from Viva Mos Eisley. In 1977 Elvis didn’t die he turned to the Darkside of the Force and ever since he has been playing music venues around the Outer Rim Territory. The time has come for the Dark King of the Sith & his band of Imperials to return to the Galaxy where he is best known.”

OK, right now I am going to give some major kudos to these guys – especially the drummer, TK4468, who was in full Stormtrooper gear.

Darth2 - Credit Julie ThompsonThey stay in costume the whole show.

Anyone familiar with the Moorings knows how hot it gets in there – sweatbox is the word I hear used most often by bands to describe the place  – so how these guys were not puddles of goo at the end, I have no idea.

The band – minus the lead vocalist – mounted the stage (it was actually quite amusing watching the Stormtrooper trying to bend his knees enough to climb up there) and began playing The Imperial March as Darth Elvis advanced through the audience, jingling bells.

Under the dark cloak wasn’t the bejewelled white Vegas suit I was expecting, but a red & white Santa suit.

So, it seems we have a Darth Elvis Santa tonight.

Between such numbers as Gungan in Disguise ((You’re the) Devil in Disguise), Viva Mos Eisley (Viva Las Vegas), Burning Sith (Burning Love), You ain’t nothing but a Nerf Herder (containing the memorable line “You ain’t never caught a womp rat and you ain’t no friend of mine.”) Darth distributed presents from a snowman stocking.

Darth3 - Credit Julie ThompsonI’m pretty sure he said one of the objects he tossed into the crowd was a tin of lube, but maybe my ears were playing up.

Of course there was the obligatory Christmas song – Merry Sithmas Everyone – and lots of laughs and singalongs.

It was an easy shoot, apart from the hood obscuring the face of Darth a lot of the time. All in all, a fun, totally non-serious but exhausting night.

My last festive gig was at The Lemon Tree with the ever popular The Lorelei – possibly my favourite local band – which I first encountered at Belladrum this year. Always a fun bunch, I’d been looking forward to this one. Sadly, Diane (who is currently cooking a new mini-Lorelei, due next year) was unable to join the boys on her viola.

Lorelei1 - Credit Julie ThompsonThe Lorelei – ‘Imagine a rock band and a folk band having a fight and the rock band just coming out best.

That’s The Lorelei!’

The stage area was decorated with tinsel and fairy lights and there were a few balloons scattered about the place.

There were two support acts before the main – The Deportees and Brothers Reid – both providing pleasant folk/rocky music to get us in the mood.

Before The Lorelei came on, I went to check with Captain Tom if it was ok to shoot from the floor after my time in the pit was up.

Lorelei4 - Credit Julie ThompsonHe was happy to let me do that and also said I could go behind the magic curtain (well, the side curtain that the band use) so I could photograph the shy and elusive Keith the drummer.

John came on stage and began to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. There was a murmur from the crowd and I turned to see a white bearded Flossie (Mandolin/Fiddle) leading a dancing Rudolph through the crowd.

Beefy (Lead Guitar) & Jonny (Bass) hurriedly disrobed brown fur and the band joined John onstage. Keith the elf took the drum stool and away they went, 100 miles an hour as usual.

Lorelei5 - Credit Julie ThompsonSomething soft bounced off my head at one point and I looked around to see what was it was. Oddly, there was to be a lot more balloons about than there were between me walking down to the pit and now.
I had no idea where they came from, but better a balloon to the head than any of the other things it could have been.

My 3 songs were up as the pit started filling up with balloons, so I waded through them to the exit and took up position at the pit wall for the rest of the gig.

I’ll tell you this, it is really hard to keep a steady camera hand when you’re bopping to the music. I’ve been in The Lemon Tree quite a few times now – on some very busy nights – but this was the first time I had actually felt the floor bounce.

Reid2 - Credit Julie ThompsonThere were bets taken as to how long Keith would wear the elf suit before evaporating and we were treated to a striptease – with appropriate music – when he finally gave in.

The elf suit made its way across the stage and was thrown into the audience with a call of ‘Who wants to smell the drummer?’ This brought a reply of ‘We already can!’ The last time I saw the costume, it was being worn by a brave chap who may have been lacking a sense of smell.

There were explosions from confetti cannons but sadly the snow machine was not co-operating – which I’m sure pleased The Lemon Tree staff.

The crowd was fantastic, there simply to have fun, exchange some banter, sing along and dance.

The inevitable Christmas song was the Bob Dylan song It Must Be Santa ( A nice change from the typical songs you hear and oddly in keeping with The Lorelei style.

A great gig that really helped kindle some of my festive spirit, greatly lacking until now.

Deportees1 - Credit Julie ThompsonAs the evening came to a stomping close, I wandered over for a chat with Beefys wife, Captain Tom and one or two other folk before being politely asked to vacate the premises.

As I left, the brushes were out as staff cleared up the scattered remains of burst balloon skins and confetti.

Candy canes from the tree were being eaten by the bar staff, as this was the last event before Christmas.

I have some gigs lined up in the weekend between Christmas and New Year but George Mackie is proving rather elusive to pin down long enough for a chat.

Maybe I need a tranquiliser gun to slow him down a bit.

Have a very Merry Christmas, Festivus, Midwinter, Yule, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – or whatever you may celebrate at this time of year – and I hope your New Year is a better one.

More Photos:

The Bloody Marys
Darth Elvis
Juicy Juicy Juice
The Lorelei
Brothers Reid
The Deportees

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