Day 9 – Desert….more desert and Viva Las Vegas baby!
The thought of driving a left-hand drive car on the wrong side of the road through the middle of LA did not appeal to me at all and sent my anxiety levels through the roof, luckily Sedd has done it before, so I took the easy option and left him to it. But driving across the desert is one of the things I have been looking forward to the most, so I take my turn for a few hours.
I don’t know what I was worried about, driving US style is easier than I imagined and I wish I had done it sooner.
The scenery is stunning, yeah its miles and miles of desert and straight highways with mountainous terrain either side, but it’s great. If we had the time we would have veered off and explored for sure, but we had a schedule to keep. We stop at Peggy Sue’s Diner in Yermo. A proper 50s diner and it’s just as you would imagine. The place is stuffed full of 50’s memorabilia even down to the period menus and the waitress uniforms.
Statues of Elvis and The Blues Brothers look over as I tuck into a proper American burger and fries with endless coffee top ups. Opposite the diner is a road train that is just full of military tanks. Seems pretty random, just sat there in the middle of nowhere, seemingly waiting for a conflict to break out.
Just up the road is Calico ghost town. We can’t resist, gotta be some good photo opportunities there we reckon.
While it is a genuine old mining town, it’s geared to the tourists and not as cool as we were hoping. But it is interesting and there is some cool photo opportunities to be had.
Stop over, we head back on the road to Vegas. You see it in the distance as you approach over the long straight highway, the towering structures far off down in the valley. As you get closer, the lights and then the scale hits you as the buildings tower above you…and we are in it! The craziness that is Las Vegas.
We are staying at The Venetian, it’s the most over the top luxury hotel I have ever stayed in. The scale is just unbelievable, there is a river with gondolas that flows through it, the corridors to our room seems endless, like something out of The Shining, I expect to see twin girls at every turn.
We take to the streets and explore, and the only way I can describe it is like a festival. It’s like one big endless party, you end up with a sore neck as you spend the whole time looking up at stuff. There is so much to see, everyone is either drinking or eating or gambling and everyone is spending money, it’s all about money.
There are no homeless people in Vegas, or if there are they are well hidden. We dodge Mexican ‘flickers’ with their stacks of ‘tittie cards’, the streets are littered with discarded cards, during the night they will all be swept up and probably handed out again the next day. Chinese women collect discarded plastic bottles in massive black bags over their shoulders, they get paid out per bag I believe. Neon signs flash endlessly; horns beep endlessly and money changes hands endlessly. We get chatting to a suited guy outside our hotel, he’s half our age, he gives us his business card and tells us if we need anything to give him a ring. I’m sure he could hook us up with anything we wanted whether that be drugs, guns or women.
Did we eat an evening meal? I don’t think we did, all I remember next is getting a taxi to The Mandalay Bay hotel.
The House Of Blues is situated in The Mandalay Bay hotel where just 5 days earlier Stephen Paddock opened fire on concert goers and killed 58 people. As horrifying as that is, life in Vegas goes on as normal it seems. There seems to be no lasting atmosphere, the only constant reminder ‘#VEGASSTRONG’ that is emblazoned everywhere you turn.
Billy Idol is coming to the end of a 2-year residency at the House Of Blues and he has been mixing up the set nightly with his band. Tonight, he pays tribute to those that lost their lives just a few days ago during an emotionally charged set.
A white screen is lowered and a film of vintage interviews and performances plays out as an introduction before the curtains open and the band takes to the stage. Two choice covers bookend a greatest hits set from a finely tuned band. ‘Viva Las Vegas’ seems the perfect opener and it’s a song that fits the Billy Idol set like a (leather studded) glove and ‘Money Money’ the perfect closer.
Fan favourite ‘Dancing With Myself’ is played early and newer tracks such as ‘Scream’ and ‘Can’t Break Me Down’ sit nicely up against the likes of ‘Blue Highway’ and ‘Eyes Without A Face’.
Billy Idol has aged gracefully, now in his early 60’s he still has the moves and the voice to wow his fans and still has the ability to work a crowd.
Back in the 80’s Steve Stevens was just the guitar player, 30 years later, the sidekick with the explosion of black hair, has his own t-shirts for sale on the merch stand and he very nearly stole the show.
Idol and Stevens have always been a great rock ‘n’ roll partnership. They have that certain chemistry. The frontman watches enthusiastically as the guitarist peels off lick after lick. Stevens has not one but two solo spots in the set, the first a very impressive acoustic solo that is flamenco-based yet aggressive as well. Guitar solos can be yawn-inducing at times, this is not one of those times. Both creative and impressive in equal measures.
‘Worlds Forgotten Boy’ the opening song from ‘Whiplash Smile’ is a highlight, as is the ever cool ‘Rebel Yell’. ‘White Wedding’ is played acoustic with the duo on their own for a verse before the rest of the band join them.
I never dreamed I would see Billy Idol play a gig in America, let alone in Las Vegas, This is a great end to our first night here.
Author : Ben Hughes
Ginger swings from rock genius to self-indulgent pledge monster, crafting some of the finest tunes the UK has tasted in the last 25 years or so, but seemingly a social media time bomb primed to explode. Either way, whenever I’ve met him he’s been a totally nice guy so in I guess that’s just the internet for you…
Kicking off with the low key “May The Restless Find Peace”, I can’t quite place the songs it reminds me of but it’s a nice downer of a tune much greater than the sum of its parts.
On to “Why Aye (Oh You)”. I could be facetious and say this is pound shop Jimmy Nail or I could be constructive and compare it to Del Amitri. You decide.
The album carries on in a similar vein. I guess the slide guitar gives it a country kind of vibe. You could say it’s a companion piece to 2018’s previous outing “Ghost in the Tangle Wood” It certainly sounds like an extension of that acoustic driven folky introspective sound.
Along with the aforementioned “May The Restless Find Peace”, “Better Love” is another standout track. To my ears it has a Crowded House feel, with perhaps a bit like Billy Bragg’s “Don’t Try This At Home” era. A great tune none-the-less.
The title track “The Pessimist’s Companion” has a bit more going on but remains on the “sounding up but feeling down” theme.
Like many of the tunes found here, “Sweet Wanderlust” and “In Reverse” feel like sketches of classic (Wildhearts) tunes, proving without a doubt that below the self-destruction is a great songwriter trying to find his way out of a chaotic mind.
Last up is the dark and desperate “There Is A House”. Another stand out tune and certainly one you’ll want to skip back to once the album ends.
Ultimately, if you’re a paid-up disciple of Ginger’s gang you’re gonna love this album. whatever I or anyone else thinks about it and more power to you.
Author: Fraser Munro
March 2019 sees the Lene Lovich Band taking to the road to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Lene’s classic debut album Stateless. Containing the smash hit “Lucky Number” and other perennial Lene favourites including “Home”, “Say When”, “I Think We’re Alone Now” and the celebrated ballad “Too Tender to Touch”, Stateless was an immediate success when it was first released by cult post-punk label Stiff Records, and has held it’s place in fans’ affections for four decades. Lene Lovich’s work spent over four and a half months in the Top 40 charts after the release of her debut album in 1978 in the UK and 1979 in the US.
The tour will be fans’ only chance to catch Stateless performed in its entirety. The show also includes other Lene favourites, such as the Thomas Dolby-penned hit “New Toy”, as well as a handful of songs from Lene’s highly regarded second album Flex.
Following pop-up exhibitions in London, New York and Paris, IDLES announce today their plans to auction off all the artwork to raise money for Samaritans. The band’s latest single, of the same name and inspired by the charity, has also been A-listed this week at 6 Music.
The auction will be live from 09:00 GMT on Friday 7th Dec.
The band will be staggering end times of auctions every 15 minutes from 18:00 GMT on Sunday 9th Dec.
People will be able to bid on the following work:
JAAAOR Front Cover
‘Colossus’ by Nigel Talbot
‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’ by Robin Stewart
‘I’m Scum’ by Joe Talbot
‘Danny Nedelko’ by Tao Lashley-Burnley
‘Love Song’ by Elizabeth Cater
‘June’ by Elizabeth Cater and Joe Talbot
‘Samaritans’ by Joe Talbot
‘Television’ by Tao Lashley-Burnley
‘Great’ by Ed Barrett
‘Gram Rock’ by Orlando Weeks
‘Cry to Me’ by Huw Good
‘Rottweiler’ by Tao Lashley-Burnley
‘AAlcohol’ by Joe Talbot
‘I Dream Guillotine’ by Chris Nicholls
‘Mercedes Marxist’ by Russel Oliver
Idles Centrefold by Tom Ham
JAAAOR Back Cover
For further information, photos of artwork and to bid in the auction:
“We are really delighted and grateful that IDLES are auctioning this fantastic artwork, inspired by the Samaritans track, to support the service our volunteers provide for people. Hopefully it will rais,e awareness of what Samaritans does, and encourage people to look after their own well-being and that of their friends and family, as well as helping Samaritans to be there for people when they need it.”
Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland
Further information about Samaritans:
Samaritans has more than 20,000 volunteers in the UK and Ireland who can be contacted any time, free from any phone, on 116 123. They also provide support via email email@example.com or face to face support at their 201 branches. Samaritans volunteers respond to more than 5 million calls for help a year.
Considering his epic catalogue of releases I don’t think I can recall sulo ever making a “Bad” record luckily this very ambitious release can also be added to the ever impressive list. Diamond Dogs, The Crunch or Solo he has his distinct vocal and can easily flip-flop between styles sure they’re all Rock and Roll but this is a far gentler side of his work. Especially the ‘Nightshift’ side as it might suggest. Piano acoustic guitars duets its fairly standard arrangments for sure but the quality of the songs shines through. ‘Time To Alight’ is a wonderful and simple piano and guitar song with sparse backing vocals. I think its fair to say that if Sulo wanted to create a soundtrack to the dead of night then he has achieved that with some to spare. It’s gentle and soft in places and its personified in the albums title track with some beautiful piano rolls that sort of put a full stop on proceedings.
Sulo has always had great musicians working with him to compliment his writing and this is no exception. I love the swirling organ that stabs through the bleakness like on ‘I Swear To God I Don’t Believe’ I love the grandness of the backing vocals. Considering this collection has twenty seven songs it ebbs and flows wonderfully I know it won’t please everyone but if you want the guys gentler balladeering side then it’s here and if you want the Rock and Roll that’s present too the only thing missing is the punkier side but that’s why he does the Crunch I guess. Sure I think its fair to say you will be drawn to one CD over the other be it the darker melancholy side or the more uptempo and light side, me I’m somewhere in between as I think the best songs are on ‘Nightshift’ I do love it when he delves into that whole Faces groove but here its not quite that simple as ‘Brilliant Outsiders’ has got its country honk going on. If you ever liked someone like Chuck Prophet then you need to check this out – lap steel, duets, country honk Sulo has arranged for a whole record of players to duet with him from Stockholm to Florida and Nashville to London and everywhere between have lent a helping hand. He’s even managed to rope in the UK finest Country Band Los Pacaminos to back him up. So it would seem you can also add this style to his ever-bulging portfolio. It’s not quite the stretch you might think but the songs are authentic and sound like they’ve been brought from a good place and a happiness and Joie de vivre captured within.
‘Bring Down The Angels’ is fantastic and the band lives it up on ‘God Damned Jesus’ did somebody mention Mellencamp meets Waits meets Waylon? Oh, it was me. Well, that’s the ballpark we’re playing in here. I think its no good thinking you’re going to hear the Diamond Dogs or Crunch because that’s not going to happen you have to keep an open mind and just let the music flow. whilst it might have been an experiment too far for a lot of people for many others I’m sure an appreciation for the guy’s songwriting talent will win them over. Me – I’m happy to hear whatever Sulo throws my way I think he’s a talent we should champion no matter what style he delivers next. If you don’t raise a smile by the end of ‘A Song For Every Train’ then I feel sorry for you.
Author : Dom Daley
Day 7 October 4th – GTA flashbacks, rock ‘n’ roll haunts and unexpected discoveries
Up early, we head for Santa Monica Pier. That iconic Ferris wheel is clearly visible in the early morning sun as we stroll across the deserted beach. Exploring the pier brings back GTA flashbacks again, they got it so right in San Andreas. The number of times I have walked down this pier in the game shot a bunch of innocent bystanders found a car and drove off into the hills being frantically chased by police cars and helicopters.
Back to reality, we grab a coffee and sit to do some people watching. Homeless people and drunks lay asleep, slumped over tables in the sun as Mexicans sell art and a Chinese guy plays hypnotic music on some exotic looking instrument. An Asian woman, older than her body suggests, dances continuously to the music blaring from the cafe speakers, she wears a tiny black bikini and with a constant smile on her face, seems oblivious to the world around her. This seems to be the general theme in LA. Everyone is in their own little bubble; interaction seems unlikely unless there is a transaction to be made. Take the restaurants, the beautiful people greet you with a smile and call you “sir”. They will do whatever they think you want for that extra dollar tip, the lower classes bring your food and I wonder who takes the tips.
We hire bikes and take the cycle path, a long stretch to Venice Beach. It’s still early morning for most LA residents and Jamaicans with t-shirt stalls and hippies with guitars are still setting up whatever it is they do for the day to make money. As we ride onwards, the fragrant smell of marijuana fills the air, now it’s legal over here, you see (or smell) it everywhere. We cycle past all sorts of strange looking characters from all walks of life.
We stop at a skate park and watch teenagers do their thing for a while, we dodge Jamaican street sellers, trying their hardest to sell you a CD of their latest ‘music’.
After lunch, we take the car out for a bit of sightseeing. Driving in LA takes time and in hindsight, maybe taking a taxi or an Uber is the best way. One of the places on my list was the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, one of many cemeteries in LA where the rich and famous are laid to rest.
In this idyllic, reclusive escape from the craziness of LA, you can find the likes of Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Rooney amongst the graves laid out across the beautiful gardens, but the reason for my visit is Johnny Ramone and Chris Cornell, who are funnily enough laid right next to each other. My brother was a massive Cornell fan, I remember Dan playing ‘Seasons’ to me when he worked it out, that moment always stays with me and it was essential for me to just take a moment with my thoughts here.
Back when I originally booked this holiday, I presumed nearer to the time that we would have a whole host of bands to go check out at the various clubs on the strip. Turns out, sod’s law, that its slim pickings for a rock ‘n’ roll junkie the nights we have chosen to be in town. But we do find that Shooter Jennings is playing at The Whiskey A Go Go, so that will do nicely.
In a bizarre twist of fate, we cross paths with my gig-going buddy and ace photographer Marc McGarraghy, who is over here doing a similar road trip with his wife.
The venue is forever iconic in my mind from my teenage years. All my heroes played here, Van Halen, Motley Crue and Guns n’ Roses, it’s the stuff of legends. It is smaller than I imagined but very cool. With a 500 capacity it’s just the size venue I love, and after grabbing a beer, we turn to the stage and imagine what has gone down there over the years.
But that’s all history now and tonight we have four bands to watch. Openers Shelby Texas are a boy/girl duo with just a guitar, who play instantly infectious countrified tunes, Their voices are great together and their Cash/Carter influences even more evident with the inclusion of a cover of Cash’s ‘Jackson’.
I don’t know who Keith Jacob is and I have no desire to find out after tonight’s performance. The guy plays the cheesy sort of country-pop I hate, like Billy Ray Cyrus. Songs that go nowhere and lyrically mean nothing. His voice isn’t great and his stage presence at the same level. The guitar tech is a dwarf, no joke! And things get even more bizarre as the set goes on. He keeps bringing out stunning looking dancing girls who perform perfectly synchronised dance routines that do nothing to improve the fact that his songs suck! Why? Maybe one is his daughter or the guitar player’s girlfriend, or maybe they are just strippers. The mind boggles, but they are by far the best thing about his set.
The climax involves the girls onstage with flying v guitars, doing an ‘Addicted To Love’ style dance routine as two male dwarfs, complete with miniature flying v guitars jump about too! The most tripped out and bizarre performance I have ever seen and probably the worst. I’m still not convinced it actually happened.
Hellbound Glory is like a breath of fresh air after that performance. Fronted by the instantly likable Leroy Virgil, who looks like a Bee Gee in a bomber jacket, yet sings like a rock ‘n’ roll star in his prime. His band is tight, the rhythm section especially a well-oiled machine. Turns out they are actually Shooter Jennings’ band and this is the album release show for Virgil’s comeback album ‘Pinball’. An album produced by Jennings himself and featuring his own band, backing the Reno-based singer/songwriter. It seems Jennings has taken Virgil under his wing and got him back into the business of doing music.
The upbeat title track and the likes of ‘Another Bender Might Break Me’ are whiskey and cocaine-fuelled tales that showcase a quality songwriter on the edge of a few benders himself.
As his set ends he takes the front of the stage and pours his drink over his head, in a sort of ‘don’t give a fuck’ act of defiance. Take me as I am, he seems to be saying and we certainly will.
Hellbound Glory impressed and are an unexpected highlight of the evening that will have us talking long after this trip has ended. ‘Pinball’ is a must-have album for us right now.
Porn legend Ron Jeremy is in the room tonight, should I go up and tell him I’ve seen all his greatest movies?…probably not! He takes the stage to introduce Shooter Jennings. What a band! The same players who backed Leroy Virgil, all the same apart from fiddle player Aubrey Richmond, who has changed from all black leather to a hippified, blue one piece for the headline set.
Shooter, dressed in a purple suit, shades ever present, stands behind a keyboard stage front for most of the set. Sometimes on keys, sometimes a guitar, it’s the bassist and fiddle player that the eyes are drawn to watch as the set unfolds.
The sound of Shooter Jennings is more in line with what the two of us have been listening to in recent times. A sort of Alabama 3 meets Nick Cave vibe with a touch of Johnny Cash. The band is tight, the songs flow and the packed room love it. The likes of ‘Electric Rodeo’ are soaked in Black Crowes vibes, catchy standout track ‘Outlaw You’, definite country but with added fiddle giving a folk edge to it.
We came to this show last minute, on a whim. Not familiar with the music of Shooter Jennings, we leave after a great night needing to check out the back catalogue, but it’s the support band Hellbound Glory who really leave a lasting impression long after the trip has ended.
Day 8 – Universal Studios, bucket list bars and future stars
Day 2 in Los Angeles is spent mostly at Universal Studios. The tour is essential, the themed rides vary in awesomeness, Sedd has been before and recommends we upgrade to fast-track entry to save time queuing good move. We get there as it opens and leave by 3 pm having done pretty much every ride. Most are 3D interactive rides, with 3D glasses, Harry Potter and Transformers offering the most thrills, a larger than life replica of Springfield is very trippy and a detailed replica of Hogwarts is not to be missed.
We then take a trip over to Laurel Canyon to find the house where Jim Morrison lived, check out the hippy country store next door and just take in the atmosphere. Cruise through the likes of Rodeo Drive, the chaotic traffic, the palm trees and the characters that you would only see in LA.
The evening brings a trip down Hollywood Boulevard to check out the bucket list rock ‘n’ roll bars. We find The Viper Room, intending to grab a quick beer and move on. We follow the black-walled corridors to the main room, a small room that is packed, everyone seemingly waiting for a band to take the stage. There’s a cool vibe in here, we soak it in, like The Whiskey last night and imagine the bands that have taken to that stage in the past.
Tonight is the album release show for a band called Disciples Of Babylon. Premiering tracks from the newly released ‘The Rise And Fall Of Babylon’. The guys have an epic, almost proggy sound. Rousing gang vocals on the likes of ‘Liberty’ and ‘Karma’ bring to mind 30 Seconds To Mars at their best. Frontman Eric Knight incites crowd participation time and again and does what’s needed to keep the packed in crowd ignited as guitarist Ramon Blanco pulls off stadium-sized licks to his side. They even throw in a choice Zep cover in the form of ‘Immigrant Song’.
Lyrically, a socially aware band who are in touch with the state their country is in, musically and sonically tight and professional, they seem to have the songs that matter. Worth checking out methinks.
We then head onto the Rainbow Bar & Grill. Again, it’s tiny and very cool. I don’t really know what I was expecting, glitz and glamour, maybe a rock star sighting or two? Truth is, these clubs are exactly the same as the clubs I frequent in the UK, small, great drinking bars that have the same atmosphere as Fibbers, as The Brudenell, as whatever club I go to watch bands in, the only difference is the location and then maybe the less famous clientele.
I would have liked more time in LA, but it’s just so freakin’ big! A lot bigger than I expected. There is still so much we did not see, so the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame and the rest will have to wait until next time, as Vegas is calling.
Author : Ben Hughes
With the Dahlmanns’ new swift, six song mini-album, I’ll get to the point as quickly as they do: ‘American Heartbeat’ is a brief shot of pure power-pop rock excellence. The idea behind the record is one of magical collaboration. Written and produced by Scandanavian rock ‘n’ roll dream team Bjorne Froberg (the Nomads) and Chips Kiesbye (Sator), the Dahlmanns are here giving it their own special delivery in one small, exciting package.
With the Sator vocalist and guitarist Chips Kiesbye behind the production work, the sound is predictably sharp and bold, perfectly capturing the lively edge of the songs and highlighting the pop sensibilities that are gloriously smothered all over them. The songs are expertly written and played, and are a must for anyone who loves their power pop just that bit punchy.
I have seen it written that they are a cross between the Ramones and the Go Go’s, and I can’t offer a better description than that. Here, rockers such as the roaring opener ‘Tomorrow Came Today’ and ‘Get it Right’ are destined to get your feet moving, while ‘I Know You Want Me Back’ and ‘It’s Still a Long Way Down’ add the extra bit of pop romanticism.
Either way, all six tracks bind together to produce a perfect Friday night album, and one which is a must-have for all fans of punk rock with a delightful power pop edge.
Author : Craggy Collyde