Jan 192015

The sound of Johnny Cash comes to the North-east in 2015 as Jericho Hill make their long awaited Aberdeen debut at The Moorings Bar on Saturday February 21st. By Al Pritchard

Jericho Hill2The Glasgow based five-piece have built a reputation as the tribute band for people who don’t like tribute bands with their high-octane shows up and down the country. Jericho Hill have notched up a string of prestigious appearances at summer festivals such as Wickerman, Belladrum and Blackpool’s annual gathering of all things Punk Rock, Rebellion.

They are regulars at a number of venues across Glasgow and including a recreating of the Live at Folsom Prison LP at The Grand Ol’ Opry and a memorable two-show day in the chapel at the infamous Barlinnie Prison.

Since their first gig in 2009, there have been a couple of changes in personnel but the current line-up has been settled for the best part of the last four years, and this gig is a bit of a homecoming for two of the band’s members.

Leader, and the band’s very own Man in Black, Bill Wright will be fondly remembered by Aberdonians of a certain vintage as Lonesome Cowboy Bill, who, as the name suggests could be found in bars and clubs across town in the late 1980’s playing a set comprised entirely of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash numbers to the assembled throng, and also had a spell with The Rodriguez Brothers with Dave Wilkinson of local punk dignitaries Toxik Ephex.

Bill’s first recruit, and the only other member of the current line up to have played in the band’s first gig in Glasgow’s Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, is Joe Whyte. Joe has provided lead guitar styling in a number of bands over the years, including Jailhouse (with current Jericho Hill bassist Rab Christie), The God Fearing Atheists and Reaction.

With a lovely line in Western shirts, brothel creepers and feverish fretwork, Joe was immediately sold on the idea of a Johnny Cash tribute band by Bill’s insistence that Mr Cash was indeed the original punk rocker.

The second returning son is drummer Al Pritchard. His first gig with the band was in mid 2009, but he will perhaps be more familiar to the Aberdeen crowd from his time on short lived early 90s acid house casualties, Thirteen. This will be Al’s first appearance in Aberdeen since Thirteen’s legendary Xmas Eve show in the Pelican Club in 1999.

Bassist and chief joke writer is Rab Christie. He and Joe were both members of the aforementioned Jailhouse. As well as having made an appearance at Aberdeen’s Cafe Drummond, Rab has also appeared at both The Albert Hall and The 100 Club with Al Pritchard as one seventh of the now defunkt proto-folk combo The Boppin Heads.

Filling the June Carter role, and lowering the average age of the band quite significantly is the wonderful Charlene Boyd. Star of stage and screen, Charlene’s infectious enthusiasm is an essential part of the Jericho Hill sound and they would not be the band they are without her.

Make no mistake, this is not cabaret. No slavish copying for this band, they prefer instead to dial up the Man in Black’s inherent punk energy and attitude, for a blistering show covering his entire career. From the beginnings with the Tennessee Two, right through to the American Recording sets of Cash’s later years, Jericho Hill provide something for everyone, provided everyone doesn’t expect to sit down and nod their heads gently.

Get up. Get Rhythm, Get down and get with it.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Oct 122013

‘The history of a nation is measured by its gains, but where will it end. The money with the power, the weapons with the firepower; they’re owned by you. You’ve heard the list of names, exactly who’s to blame, is this our land of shame.’ – Land of Shame, Kirk Brandon

Kirk Brandon, Adrian Portas, Craig Adams and Mike Kelly – all together and in the Moorings Bar.  It was delicious.  Suzanne Kelly reports, still with a smile on her face; photographs by Julie Thompson.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (5)

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen, 04.10.13

The music and lyrics of Spear of Destiny still resonate as powerfully today as they did when newly released. This speaks volumes about the band in a positive way – and about society and government well – less positively.
I had my SoD memories, and had hardly hoped to expect that all of the power could still be there; thirty years is a lifetime; touring with a demanding repertoire to please demanding fans is a big ask.

After all, there are so very many acts touring now simply to cash in, some with little more than a roadie’s friend’s cousin in the act to justify these so-called ‘reunion’ tours. 

Good and great reviews have greeted this Thirty Years On tour; however, this was to be the first time I’ve seen the band since Kirk Brandon was taken seriously ill in 2011 (I missed their last Aberdeen date).  I was slightly worried; happily, I needn’t have been.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (2)SoD was never an easy band to pigeonhole, something which the industry loves to do – package a product, put a label on it, and thrust it on the target market. Opening act The Mighty Human Generator’  was well received (I missed too much of their set to comment and they don’t usually perform acoustic, but but will make it a point to see them soon).

Eventually Mike Kelly, Adrian Portas, Craig Adams (not to be confused with Craig Adam, owner of the Moorings Bar) and Kirk Brandon take the stage.

It might have been a small stage in a modest size venue, but that made it all the more exciting and intimate.

All was going well, spectacularly in fact – but then Brandon asked everyone how they felt about the Scottish Independence referendum – and asked for a vote.

I expected chaos, fights and tears – but to my shock, the vote was split roughly in half, and that was the end of it. Back to the music then, potential riot averted.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (1)‘Never Take Me Alive,’ an American western-flavoured epic ending in a dramatic hail of guitar, pleased us all; everyone up front sang and danced (and what well mannered slamming it was too; perhaps we’re all just that little bit older)

‘Treachery’ is haunting and the cords evoke a Celtic/medieval music mood; it’s as magical as it ever was.  The audience, many of who didn’t know each other at the start of the night are singing ‘Treachery’ to each other towards the end of the ambitious set.

There are guitar passages in songs that I’d all but forgotten; some make me realise that a whole slew of musicians owe this band.

There are passages which I’m certain Eddie Vedder must have been influenced by.

One of the most powerful anti-war songs anyone’s every written, ‘Mickey’ has everyone singing along with every line, culminating in cries of ‘I wanna go home.’  It’s punk; it’s a ballad, it’s a protest. You’d need an awful lot of labels to label this one song, let alone label SoD.

The show ends.  Angie in the audience is awestruck, as are a couple who tell me they see SoD as often as they can.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (4)The mood is wonderful; stranger talks to stranger. The only person who didn’t seem to enjoy it quite as much as the rest of us is the now ubiquitous person who’s watched the set through their iphone; this phenomenon continues to baffle me.

Eventually the band members come out and mingle.  Portas, Kelly and Adams should be knackered, but are pleasant and seem genuinely pleased at the reception they’ve all had.

Against my will and my better judgment, I’ve been thinking about pop, manufactured bands, stripping singers and Cyrus and that wrecking ball these past few days. Perhaps evolution is going backwards.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (6)

Spear of Destiny play to a sellout crowd at The Moorings, Aberdeen.

I get to chat for a few minutes to Kirk;

I asked him about the phenomenon of  the Miley Cyrus approach to music, i.e. getting attention by stripping, riding a wrecking ball, and licking a hammer.

‘Well, it’s silly, isn’t it?’ was the main thing I remember about his response (well, it is a bit noisy).

Miley will have to endure eating and fitness regimes to try to stay young, waif-thin and wrinkle-free to sustain the kind of adoration she’s courted.

When she’s older and her raison d’etre is gone and no one cares about her music, Brandon will be able to say he wrote ‘Treachery,’ ‘Mickey,’ and plays astonishing guitar. (Given a choice, what would you rather be remembered for?). We talk about his past illness ‘I know I’m lucky’ he comments.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (3)Topping off a night I’ll remember for quite some time to come, Flash gives some of us a tour of his beer cellar. This is a high-tech lager labour of love; temperature controlled, quality controlled casks in a spotless space.

The only thing left to add is that if you missed the sold out Spear of Destiny  Moorings show, get some people together, get a road trip organised, and get to one of the remaining shows; details here:  http://www.kirkbrandon.com/shows.

Theatre of Hate will be playing UK dates in December as well.

There is also a special limited edition CD, Thirty Years and Counting – which can be found here http://kirkbrandondotcom.bigcartel.com/

More of Julie Thompson’s photos can be found here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladypakal/sets/72157636209512343/