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Get Out Gigging

I saw a band…here’s what I think…

The Skints, The Laundry, London. Sun 17th July, 2016

UK punky Reggae band The Skints are putting on their own party here in Hackney, North-East London tonight. They’ve got an array of acts lined up as well as the Reggae Roast Sound System featuring Brother Culture, Tippa Irie and Earl Gateshead from Trojan Records.

Support comes from New Kingston, a Brooklyn quartet comprising three brothers playing drums, guitar and keyboards with their Dad on bass. They’ve released three albums to date, with the  latest “New Kingston” out at the moment. Their blend of jazzy Reggae is uptempo and rootsy, something that would go down well at festivals as well as on the radio. They can all play well, taking it turns to solo and showcase their skills. They also all share vocal duties, presenting a lively set that gets the crowd moving.

The Reggae Roast Sound System keeps the place jumping in between acts, with long standing deejays Tippa Irie and Brother Culture trading rapid fire toasts and boasts.

Next up are the party hosts themselves. Joshua (on guitar and vocals) says that they’ve recently returned from playing some American dates and are happy to be back in the UK where they can get a decent cup of tea. Their sound is basically a mix of Grime, Dub, Ska, Reggae and Punk, and they’ve managed to blend all these influences into a sound that is uniquely their own yet completely representative of multi-racial Britain.

They don’t really have a front person, vocals come from Jamie the drummer, Joshua or Marcia, with Jonathan Doyle anchoring the songs with some heavyweight bass. As well as vocals Marcia also plays flute, alto saxophone, melodica, percussive samples and keyboards depending on the song. Their third album is entitled “FM” and like previous album “Part And Parcel” it’s produced by Brighton Reggae heavyweight producer Price Fatty.

As Tippa Irie is in the house, they play “Tazer Beam” and “This Town”, both of which feature the UK deejay. A veteran of the Saxon Sound System alongside Smiley Culture, Tippa Irie is an energetic and confident performer who gets the crowd going with his enthusiastic patter.

The crowd are here for The Skints though, and as they blast through their old and new songs it’s clear that they’ve got a big London following, with a very vocal crowd singing along for the entire set. A lively homecoming gig from a good live band.

London born Marla Brown, daughter of Reggae icon Dennis Brown, comes on stage to perform one song and gets a big welcome before Jesse Royal closes the show.

His brand of Roots Reggae is firmly in the vein of Protoje, Chronixx and Jah 9 and is a perfect way to end the evening. His band consists of drumns, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar and  keyboards and they provide a solid and danceable backing as Jesse “The Small Axe” delivers an energetic set. He went to school with Daniel Marley, son of Ziggy, and was mentored to some extent by members of the Marley family.

“Modern Day Judas” is still his most outstanding song for me, but all the songs performed tonight were uplifting without being preachy.

A great night out with some excellent acts all on the same bill. If The Skints put on another party definitely go check it out if you can get there.

Peace.

Reggae Roast

New Kingston

Tippa Irie

The Skints

Jesse Royal

Stand Up And Spit, Punk Poetry and Discussion. The Roundhouse, London. Sat 9th July, 2016

There’s a series of events at the Roundhouse in Camden to celebrate forty years of Punk in the UK. Ranting poetry was always a part of the UK Punk scene and this is being celebrated in a discussion entitled “What did Punk ever do for us?”

The panel was made up of Richard Boon (former manager of Buzzcocks, now working as a librarian at Stoke Newington Library), Rhoda Dakar (former vocalist in Two Tone bands The Bodysnatchers and The Specials), Danny Fields (music business veteran and former manager of The Ramones, who played at the Roundhouse in July 1976) and Tim Wells (veteran ranting poet and the man who runs the Stand Up And Spit blog). Dennis Bovell, the veteran Reggae musician and producer was due to be on the panel but was stuck on a train somewhere and unfortunately didn’t make it to the event. The panel was chaired by Matthew Worley (professor of modern history at the University of Reading). The first question got the panel talking about what Britain was like in 1976 and we got tales of people working a three day week, electricity cuts, the long hot Summer of that year and how various strikes led to rubbish being piled high in the streets.

Rhoda Dakar had particularly poignant tales of how here mixed raced heritage led to her being rejected by both black and white communities and how she found solidarity amongst a handful of her mixed race school friends. Danny Fields was slightly contentious in that he insisted that music and politics didn’t mix, but this was roundly criticised by everyone else on the panel.

There was also a Q and A with the audience, with Rhoda Dakar being the most vocal and entertaining of the panel members. All in all it was an interesting and entertaining talk with a group of people who were involved and affected by Punk in the 70’s.

After a 30 minute break, it was time for the poetry side of the event. There were quite a few poets on the bill so they each did around three poems each and swiftly made way for the next person. First up, and MC for the event, was Salena Godden who delivered a series of poems in the guise of amusing public service announcements.

Next up, Phill Jupitus in his Porky The Poet guise gave us a poem about the first band he ever saw and another one entitled “They’ve All Grown Up In The Beano”, recounting what all the comic characters are up to now.

Tim Wells, who runs the Stand Up And Spit blog and is one of the original Punk ranters gave us a poem about Goths being sick on the night bus and the gentrification of places like Hoxton in East London.

Liam McCormick from Glasgow delivered a poem about sectarian bigotry while Kate Fox from Bradford spoke about class and gender with humour and punch.

Old school punk poet Garry Johnson told more tales of class warfare, reciting fiery poems with titles like “Young Conservatives”. Joseph Beamont-Howell is one of the poets in residence at The Roundhouse and delivered a series of poems in a vivid, story-telling style.

Sophie Cameron from Yorkshire delivered a series of funny, foul-mouthed poems reflecting on “posh cunts” as well as the Tindr generation and got perhaps the best reception of all the poets.

Finally, veteran Jamaican dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson closed the show. With a career spanning forty years and several albums as well as having his work in print, he’s one of the most influential of the poets on the bill. Starting with “Five Nights Of Bleeding”, his poems written in the 70’s, it’s amazing to hear how his words have as much relevance now as they did then, particularly in the wake of Black Lives Matter and the Mark Duggan incident.

His next poem “It Dread Ina Inglan”, is another of his older poems, this time about the framing of George Lindo for armed robbery in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Again it still resonates with a relevancy that shows how little some things have changed.

To make the point, his final poem is “Licence Fi Kill”, about police killings of Black people, then as now an ongoing problem that needs urgent resolution. LKJ doesn’t need to write anything new when the subjects he addressed all those years ago are still issues that many so called democratic countries continue to struggle with.

To round off the event, Laura Anderson the guitarist with Thee Jezebels thrashed out three messy Punk oldies “I Fought The Law” by The Clash, “Something Better Change” by The Stranglers and “Hurry Up Harry” by Sham 69, joined on the chorus by Tim Wells and Phill Jupitus.

A great afternoon of Punk inspired ranting by a fantastic bunch of wordsmiths.

Peace.

Stand Up And Spit

Ernie Ranglin & Friends, Barbican, London. Mon 27th June, 2016

Support comes from Nérija, a seven piece Jazz ensemble who play a mellow mix of African and Caribbean sounds rooted in an urban London experience. They emerged from Tomorrow’s Warriors, the youth programme created by the Jazz Warriors. It’s an entertaining way to open the show and they’re a great group of musicians.

Ernie Ranglin has just turned 84 and his seven decades on the music scene has seen him do pretty much everything within the world of Jamaican Mento, Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. He produced and played on Millie Smalls’ seminal hit “My Boy Lollipop” in 1964, gave Bob Marley guitar playing tips, played on Junior Murvin’s classic 1976 album “Police And Thieves” and played on countless sessions for seminal producer Duke Reid, the owner of the Trojan and Treasure Isle labels.

He’s finally decided to call it a day as far as live touring goes, and is currently on a farewell world tour. His final date in London is here at the Barbican, where he’s joined by an all-star band comprising Tony Allen, the Afrobeat drummer who played with Fela Kuti, bassist Ira Coleman, Senegalese multi-instrumentalist Cheikh Lo, British saxophonist Soweto Kinch and pianist Alex Wilson.

Alex Wilson was the only one to address the crowd, thanking us for coming and introducing some of the songs. Ernie Ranglin never spoke but cheerfully acknowledged the applause that greeted his solos as he moved around the stage throughout the set. Whenever he wanted someone to solo he would stand next to them, frequently going over to Soweto Kinch who played with enthusiasm, perfectly complementing Ranglin’s mellow guitar sounds. It was a shame when Soweto Kinch left the stage about three quarters of the way through the set, as he never returned and no explanation was given as to why.

Percussionist Cheikh Lo was in great form all night. He took up his own guitar on a couple of songs while the rest of the band accompanied him and he even relieved Tony Allen on drum duties for a few songs as he expertly drummed and sang. Ira Coleman’s bass playing anchored the whole set, his deeply resonant notes and assured style keeping the whole thing together while allowing the other musicians plenty of space to play.

Ernie Ranglin cut a sprightly figure as he flitted about on the stage, clearly enjoying himself as he ran through a range of songs and styles. When playing lead guitar he would use a pick, but when he was playing rhythm guitar as another musician played a solo, he would hold the pick in his mouth. He frequently played in a percussive style, sliding his fingers on the strings to change the pitch of the notes or draping his left hand or arm over the fret board to mute the sound.

The band played from his 1997 album “Below The Bassline” and also gave a nod to The Skatalites by playing “Ball Of Fire”. Ernie Ranglin’s signature tune “Surfin'” also got a big round of applause. The encore of “Nana’s Chalk Pipe” also got a good reception and with that the entire band sauntered off stage with Ernie Ranglin waving to the crowd as he left.

Great to see this important figure in Jamaican music one last time.

Peace.

Nerija

Ernest Ranglin

Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Jazz Cafe, London. Thurs 16th June, 2016

Boston based musician Eli “Paperboy” Reed is here in London for the launch of his fifth album, the Gospel influenced album “My Way Home”. He’s steeped in the Soul / Gospel tradition of artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and The Staples Singers and maybe he’s just a man out of sync with the times as he’s previously been signed to Capitol and Warner Brothers and it’s clear that these bigger labels just don’t know how to market, position or sell what he’s doing.

eliHe’s backed by a three-piece band, drums, bass and organ and Eli plays guitar. As it’s an album launch, tonight’s set is made up of several songs from the album. He’s spent some time teaching at the “Gospel For Teens” project in Harlem, instructing young people in Gospel’s rich traditions and history, and his album of self-penned cuts reflects that kind of raw spiritual fervour. Songs like “Cut Ya Down”, “A Few More Days” and “Hold Out” reflect this kind of raw emotion, with Eli frequently squealing and screeching as part of his energetic and powerful performance.

The audience in turn respond to this energy with great enthusiasm and each song ends  with heartfelt applause. It’s an uptempo, danceable show delivered by a musician who knows how to entertain a crowd. He ends the set with “Take My Love With You”, his 2008 classic that sound like it could have some out on Stax in the Sixties.

For an encore, the band assemble as a barbershop quartet, huddled around a single microphone to sing one last song acapella. A great ending to a great show.

Peace.

Eli “Paperboy” Reed

Mark Billingham and My Darling Clementine. The Forge, London. Thurs 2nd June, 2016.

My Darling Clementine are a duo comprising husband and wife team Michael Weston-King and Lou Dalgleish. Their music deals with the classic Country and Western themes of loving, cheating and sorrow. Mark Billingham is the author of a series crime fiction stories featuring Tom Thorne, a Country and Western loving anti-hero working for the Met in London.

Tonight, Billingham is presenting an original story called “The Other Half” and has got My Darling Clementine to collaborate on the music. The show involved Billingham reading from a lectern while the band play relevant songs at various points in the story. A backdrop is used, onto which photographs are projected that help with the imagery as the tale unfolds.

The story revolves around Marcia, a former Las Vegas showgirl who now works in a dilapidated bar in Memphis close to Sun Studios. She spends her days working double shifts, complaining about the fact that her daughter never contacts her. Meanwhile, all sorts of characters frequent the bar with their own tales of loss and heartbreak.

The music provided is a mix of new songs specially written for the show alongside material from My Darling Clementine’s last two albums. “The Other Half”, the title track for the show, is a Patsy Cline type epic wedding song about a wronged man and his wronged wife. There’s also a song about domestic violence that says it all in the title, “No Matter What Tammy Said (I Won’t Stand By Him)”.

Despite the themes of both the story and the songs that illustrate them, Mark Billingham brings the whole thing to a relatively happy ending. He joins the band on guitar for one last song, singing a couple of verses with great enthusiasm. A good story illustrated by some poignant songs, “The Other Half” is also available as a CD with the complete story in a booklet. Well worth checking out but even better seeing it live.

Peace.

Mark Billingham

My Darling Clementine

Adam Ant, Brighton Centre. Sat 28th May, 2016

Support comes from UK feds, a Birmingham four piece who play a heavy mix of Ska and Punk. Their lively set gets the crowd bopping in their seats as the venue slowly fills up and by the end they get a good round of applause from an enthusiastic crowd.

Adam Ant is here to perform “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” in its entirety tonight. Released in 1980 and hitting the number one spot in 1981, the album had the right mix of punk, swagger and camp to capture the nation, spawn hit singles and show Adam Ant to be a true pop star in every sense of the word.

His band consists of two drummers at the back of the stage on a raised platform, bass, rhythm guitar and Will Crewdson the demon guitarist from Scant Regard. They launch into the first track on the album, the iconic “Dog Eat Dog” which was also a single, and the intro alone is enough to get the entire seated audience up on their feet.

He looks in good health and perform like he really loves to do so, running from one side of the stage to the other in his Hussars jacket and bicorne hat, looking every inch the swashbuckling dandy of old. The very next song on the album is “Antmusic” and this quick “one two” of bona fide classics is a sure fire way to get a great gig off to a fantastic start. From there, it’s an energetic blast through the rest of the album. He dedicated “Press Darlings” to an ever intrusive press whilst a punkish version of “Killer In The Home” ends what would be side one of the (vinyl) album.

Of course side two opens with the rip roaring “Kings Of the Wild Frontier”, another obvious crowd favorite that gets plenty of people singing along. The band is well rehearsed and solid, giving Adam Ant a great foundation on which he can showcase his career highlights. Once they’ve finished the songs that make up the album, we’re treated to another hour of great tunes ranging from early Punk tracks on the 1979 “Dirk Wears White Sox” album like “Car Trouble” and “Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face)” to his more poppier numbers like “Prince Charming” and “Goody Two Shoes”.

The three song encore is “Red Scab”, his cover version of the T.Rex classic “Get It On” and finally “Physical (You’re So)”. At almost two hours, the set is a great retrospective from one of the UK’s true pop stars, when pop stardom meant having intelligence, wit, humour, the ability to perform and possessing great songs, not the reality TV driven factory fodder that passes for pop stardom these days.

Long may Adam Ant continue to entertain us.

Peace.

UK Feds
Adam Ant

The Heavy, Heaven, London. Tues. 17th May, 2016.

The Heavy are in London tonight to promote their fourth album “The Hurt And The Merciless”. Their brand of Rock, Funk and Soul seems to draw fans from different musical genres and it’s easy to hear why this kind of across the board appeal means that their music is used in films, TV, adverts and video games. Despite that, they’re still not as big a name as they should be on the UK scene but seem to have a faithful live following whenever they tour the UK.

The West Country quartet are on stage tonight with a horn section and additional backing vocals and kick off their set with “Can’t Play Dead” from their 2012 album “The Glorious Dead”. They’re definitely playing to an audience largely familiar with their old and new songs as the packed crowd sing along to most of the set. “Miss California”, their uptempo ode to a former beauty queen who no longer turns heads merges seamlessly into their older song “Short Change Hero”, showing the appeal of the band – great songs that have a consistent feel to them.

For me, a contemporary band is Vintage Trouble, another four piece who craft equally soulful songs and perform them just as dynamically. Kelvin Swaby is a great frontman, constantly talking to he crowd, dancing from one end of the stage to the other and all while belting out the songs in a powerful voice.

“Since You’ve Been Gone” on the new album provokes a boisterous reception from the audience as does “How Ya Like Me Now”, probably their most well known song as it’s been used in adverts and countless TV segments. These dates are part of a bigger tour taking in Japan and The States, where they seem to go down really well, and this London show was definitely a great gig from a great UK band. Always worth seeing live.

Peace.

The Heavy

London International Ska Festival, Fri 25th Mar, 2016

It’s the Easter Bank holiday so it’s time for the annual London International Ska Festival. This is the 28th one, and there’s the usual line up of old and new artists representing the first through to the third wave of Ska and Rocksteady.

Support comes from The Delirians, a Ska and Rocksteady group from East LA. They’re made up of drums, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar and keyboards / Hammond organ. Playing an infectious blend of Ska they perform a set of original songs that they release through their own Angel City Records. There’s some great Hammond organ playing throughout the set, with their cover version of the Sir Lancelot classic “Shame And Scandal” going down particularly well. A good support slot that gets people dancing.

This trip aboard the Dixie Queen sees music legend U Roy arrive on stage to say it’s his first time headlining on a boat. Looking resplendent in his red outfit he receives a huge reception from the all ages crowd. With The Delirians playing as his pick up band, he plays a lively set that includes “OK Fred” and “Wear You To The Ball”, his 1970 classic song that helped usher in the era of the Jamaican deejay.

It’s a great gig anyway and the novelty of being on a boat as it cruises the Thames makes it even better. Occasionally the boat lists from side to side and the musicians on stage sway with the motion. U Roy makes reference to this and encourages people to jump around even more. This annual Ska festival always has a wealth of great acts over the course of the weekend, but if you get a chance try and jump aboard the Dixie Queen next year for what always proves to be a festival hightlight.

Peace.

London International Ska Festival

Dixie Queen Cruises

Calibro 35, 100 Club, London. Fri 26th Feb, 2016

Support comes from The Soul Immigrants, a six piece Funk & Soul band from London. They get a lively response from their danceable set, which is pretty good considering the venue us still filling up as they play. A good start to the main event.

Calibro 35 are a five piece from Milan who play lively cinematic funk soundtracks alongside their own compositions. Trawling the rich catalog of Italian 60’s B-Movie soundtracks, their instrumental set ranges from slow, moody, atmospheric numbers to lively uptempo dance tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place at a Hip Hop jam. The band consists of drums, bass lead, guitar, organ, keyboards/flute. The use a host of vintage equipment to get that 60’s analogue soundtrack feel and it’s easy to hear why they’ve been asked to compose music for films and tv.

They play atmospheric head nodder “Il Consigliori”, which was sampled by Jay-Z on his song “Picasso Baby” as well as a handful of songs from their fourth album “Traditori di Tutti”.

Fifth album “S.P.A.C.E.” was recorded in London’s Toerag studios, where Jack White has also taken advantage of their use of vintage equipment to craft his sound, and from this album they play “Bandits On Mars”. It’s a soundtrack to an imaginary science fiction film and this, along with “Giulia Mon Amour” gets an enthusiastic reception from the sold out venue.

Throughout the show the band members get a chance to show their playing skills, there are plenty of intricate solos that never go on for too long but add just enough to the songs to show that they can all really play.

My only objection is that they never play over here enough but it’s a band that’s definitely worth catching if you ever get the chance.

Peace.

The Soul Immigrants

Calibro 35

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