Another year another venture North for my annual trip for the Gathering as we head for Gathering Twenty Seven and this year’s festivities seem to coincide with the cold snap as the UK is besieged by snow as we struggle to trek North under the half an inch of snow that seems to have landed on high ground but we struggle on regardless as we maintain a=our fine record of attending every single one outside Rhyl town hall So that’ll be Twenty Five without fail.  We’ve seen some amazing performances over the years culminating in last years mammoth Saturday Night and a set that had an hour-long encore! beat that Springsteen.

We enter the arena for Friday nights performances and as if by magic Dave Sharp is taking the stage for his solo performance. Now I’ll admit that Dave is a little like marmite and there are those who love him and his folky noodlings and those that aren’t fussed and as much as I love the guy and ‘Hard Travellin’ was and still is a fantastic piece of work and one of the best albums the Alarm or associated members ever made since then his work has left me cold and his performances of which I’ve seen many have been tepid.  Its a tough gig even for Dave doing the Gathering as a lot of people just want to hear old Alarm songs and drink and as many people catch up on the Friday its not until Dave is Joined by Mike Peters that things get really interesting.  There is a respect and a love that is evident considering what these brothers from different mothers went through but there is also a tension in the air and they seem to accept both and it helps create some magic when the guitars are turned up and the mics are switched on.

Tonight sees the pair begin with a fine rendition of ‘Bells Of Rhymney’ quickly followed by a fantastic ‘Gasoline Alley’ some great stories are told about their pre-recordings and the songs they used to play together when they started this journey and ending on ‘Get By With A Little Help From My Friends’ seemed to cement that respect for each other and what they have achieved.

We get a great ‘Shout At The Devil’ followed by ‘For Freedom’ and ‘Marching On’ and for me such a magical time in music comes flooding back with such classics getting played by James Stevenson, Smiley and Peters even if James seems to be having some technical difficulties the flow of the set isn’t broken and playing in the round is working a treat . As the Bass synth starts for ‘Howling wind’ my mind takes me back to some of those early shows and the feeling I had as a young man and that steady bass vibrated through the floor as sharpie played the riff on ‘Howling Wind’ I’m caught with my thoughts where have all those years gone its well over half my life ago and I’m brought back to more recent times after ’68 Guns’ because James and Smiley leave the stage for peters to wander down a wormhole of early solo songs as the excellent and underplayed ‘Poetic Justice’ gets a rare outing the same can be said for ‘It Just Don’t get any Better Than This’ and latter ‘Feel Free’ as far as Fridays go this one is shaping up rather nicely thanks.

James and Smiley return to the round for a blast through ‘Drunk And Disorderly’ and ‘We Are The Light’ and its a delight to hear ‘Superchannel’  and ‘Rocking In The Free World’ for the first time in a long time.  With the clock ticking and beauty sleep needed for a long Saturday it only left Mr Sharp to return to the stage for a memorable slog through ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’. Friday was in the bag, done and dusted and as far as Fridays go that was easily the best for many a year possibly since Coloursound made their debut. Bring on Saturday.

February 2018

Foulmouthed Filthy February or something like that.

February began with a road trip to see a band who for me has been my go-to pilgrimage in North Wales for The Gathering weekend for the last quarter of a century (almost). A weekend celebrating the music of Mike Peters & The Alarm reached a high point on the Saturday night as a Four-hour performance rounded off an impressive weekend. I’ve enjoyed going for almost quarter of a century where special guests have included Billy Duffy, Craig Adams, Steve Diggle, Pete Wylie, Dave sharp, Ian McNabb, Eddie McDonald and a whole bunch of other musicians I’ve forgotten and I’ve managed to attend without missing a single year.

I must admit the thought of such a marathon performance on a Saturday night filled me with dread can any fans watch for four hours? The answer is a resounding yes! It flew by and was one of the best Saturday night shows I’ve ever seen Peters perform especially when he was joined on stage by Craig Adams for the final hour (that still doesn’t sound right – the final hour). Roll on February 2019 when I can do it all again.

 

Staying on the live front, Other RPM scribes went to some far-flung countries to catch their Rock n Roll with Craggy taking in an excellent show from Fertile Hump live at Kabinet Muz, in Brno. but a large gathering of writers took in a show or two when the Damned went around the UK this time with the added excitement of Paul Gray back in the fold for the first time in decades which was rather nice.  Seeing the Damned with a new album in tow and playing sold out shows all across the UK in decent sized venues was awesome and it has to be said so were the band.  Gray seemed to give them a right shot in the arm just in time for this stint of dates was easily the highlight of February. But with the recent news of our Brother Scott Sorry battling a serious illness the Rock and Roll community rallied and a series of benefit shows were arranged to raise funds for Scott at such a difficult time what with the American Health system being what it is  The likes of Role Models, Main Grains and  The Empty Page rocked out at The Parish to rave reviews whilst Wakefield Warehouse saw the Professionals, the Wildhearts, Massive Wagons and Sonic Boom Six take care of business and send Positive vibes across the ocean as well as money raised at these spectacular shows.

Before Feb was done The UK also saw the return of Bullets And Octane and Ben attended a memorable show in York that proved that Gene Louis had lost none of the fire he had inside his beating heart when he first toured the UK.

 

As for recordings to hit the shelves, historically early in the year, things open slowly in the music business and January being about new resolutions before finally seeing new releases hit the shelves, so, Feb saw an avalanche of really big hitters for RPM writers.  We had the release of Imperial State Electric’s Live album ‘Anywhere Loud’ as well as some garage awesomeness from the likes of the Cavemen and The Bellrays getting round to release records. 

Several writers were also impressed by the latest Buffalo Tom long player ‘Quiet And Peace’ with Craggy picking it as one of his albums of the year. February belonged to a few foul-mouthed releases, the first came in the shape of Jonesey with their self titled long player with its down n dirty sleazy punk rock n roll and song titles and lyrics that would make a sailor blush no doubt about that. But one of the years highlights hit us like a sledgehammer between the eyes has to be Motherfuckin’ Motherfuckers with ‘MFFFMF’ (I think that’s the correct amount of F’s) inspired by Supershit 666 and the idea of some friends from the most splendid Bitch Queens and Oz and Lee from the mighty Hip Priests recording a mini album packed full of songs that were written in the shortest of times. I’ll let Lee Love tell you, good people, what happened, ” Ah the dumb Lee Love story. Well, me ‘n’ Oz went To Basel for a few days to hang out with our mates from Bitch Queens and we ended up getting pissed (as you do) and I was winding them up saying I could write and get em to record a mini album in a day. So we went into the Queens studio the next day and played through everything once maybe twice and hey presto it was done”.  Creating that Copters supershit 666 vibe.

To be fair this pack of loons rose to the occasion and absolutely knocked it out of the park in fact they didn’t just knock it out of the park they followed out tied it to the back of their pick up truck dragged it around the wood then kicked any life left in it out then did it all again for shits and giggles.  An absolute giant of punk rock n fuckin roll – make no mistake about that! Motherfuckin’ Motherfucker should and one day will rightfully be seen as a classic of its genre.

 

Also, The motherfuckin’ Dwarves were taking back the night in February as well and a jolly fine record that was.  Maybe it should be renamed Fuckin’ foulmouthed February from now on.  What a month. Outstanding stuff.