It’s been a long, hard January, right? Traditionally a gig free month, it feels like forever since my last soiree of 2018 with Tyla’s Dogs D’amour at The Fulford Arms back in December. It may be snowy and cold outside, but The Spangles are here to warm the cockles with their hometown album release show.

It’s not all gone to plan though. Caught up in the recent PledgeMusic debacle, The Spangles (as with many other artists) have had to shell out from their own pockets to fulfil pledges and get CDs made. Then the original venue for this gig fell through and just days before, main support Rich Ragany & the Digressions pulled out.

But all’s now good, a new venue was found, support also arranged and fans have the products they pledged for.

Located on the outskirts of Harrogate, The Empress might seem an unlikely venue for a rock ‘n’ roll album release show. But to be honest, it’s perfect. The upstairs function room is homely, there are carpets, pictures on the wall and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dog sleeping by the fire if there weren’t so many punters in the way. You see, this room is about twice the size of my living room and it’s already packed as Damp take to the stage.

Damp are a local four-piece band residing in the heavier end of the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum. To my ears, a heady mix of Kyuss and Mudhoney. Grungy, stoner rock goodness flows from the speakers as aptly named frontman Wolfgang wrings unworldly noted from his guitar and growls his way through 30 minutes of lo-fi stoner rock goodness. Ably backed by Modern Day Dukes man Rory on bass, George on guitars and Rob on drums, they sure have the tunes ladies and gentlemen. Great gang vocal choruses and face-melting riffage, what’s not to like here? “No one wants a damp t-shirt, but we have dry ones for sale!” announces the singer, prior to introducing the last number. Well said, that man.

 

Another new name is local funky monks PIPS. A late addition to the bill, replacing Rich Ragany & the Digressions. As guitarist Tom tells us after the opening song, PIPS have drunk 7 pints already; things might get interesting from here on in.

With funky, slap bass and metallic riffage, the trio proceeds to bounce through a magnificent high energy set of songs that come on like Infectious Grooves jamming out with Primus. My brother would’ve loved this band, he would’ve wanted to join this band… hell, I want the drummer to join my band and I don’t even have one!

The likes of ‘Soul Katt’ and ’20 Years’ are delivered with the energy and precision of a seasoned live act. They handle the intricate passages with ease and you would never have guessed they were full of lager, they’ve done this before methinks! The combination of Tom’s Vernon Reid style guitar chops, the funky slap bass work of singer Chris and the imaginative and relentless pounding beats of Josh make PIPS a mesmerising band to watch, and certainly a band I will go out of my way to see again. I love it when bands excite and ignite on the night!

No disrespect to the opening bands, but The Spangles are in a different league entirely. As far as I’m concerned they have released the album of the year with ‘#Sweet FA’, and although there are imminent releases from The Wildhearts and Michael Monroe to come soon, The Spangles sure are contenders.

Was there ever any doubt that they could pull it off live? Nah, of course not. If you’ve ever seen The Main Grains or The Idol Dead do their thing, then you know what these guys are capable of, and with an arsenal of great songs under their leather belts, it’s a given that it will be an entertaining set at least.

From the opening chords of ‘Growing Up’, it’s raw, tight and exciting. Ever smiling guitarist Ben Marsden takes lead vocals for the majority of the set and does a mighty fine job. The Idol Dead singer Polly Phluid looks comfortable with a bass strapped on, the pair even has matching black Hagstrom guitars and a shirt & waistcoat combo going on. Behind them, drummer Ginna keeps the beat and delivers great backing vocals as always.

‘Get Over Yourself’ follows, the first of many infectious shout-along choruses that make this Spangles show seem like a greatest hits set. Honestly, there is not one average song tonight, let alone a bad one.

As the energy levels rise, so do the heat levels, as the drunken packed room get rowdy, so do the band. I didn’t pay attention to the song order they played, as I was having too much fun watching and singing along. Suffice to say they pretty much played the whole album, plus a few choice covers including The Sonics ‘Have Love Will Travel’, which was up there with Crazyhead’s version.

Singer Eloise Kerry joins them for a few tracks including awesome bubblegum -infused renditions of ‘One Good Reason’ and ‘Hold My Hand’. All their songs sound ace live, and the crowd already know the words. From the bubblegum pop of ‘The Only One’ to the heavier chanting choruses of ‘Back On The Meds’ and killer Ramones tribute ‘Ramone’, these are songs designed to make you smile and make you sing, job done.

Comedy banter between band and audience flows nicely; all three have always had a good rapport with their fans. The chants of “Rory! Rory!” are swiftly put to bed by a smiling Ben, as he jokes about going home tonight with the Damp bass player, who also happens to be his former bandmate. Ginna and Ben even manage to slag each other off mid-song, during Green Day’s ‘FOD’, in the middle of singing and playing.

As we reach the climax of the show, a visibly emotional Ben can barely sing the chorus of the magnificent single-to-be ‘I Don’t Wanna Go’, a concerned Ginna watches his every move and has his back, covering the chorus when he can.

 

Hot and sweaty, exciting and euphoric, The Spangles delivered maximum rock ‘n’ roll tonight, in a pub in Harrogate, and I’ll wager no music venue has been that packed in Harrogate for a long time. This time last year they weren’t even a band, this time next year, who knows where they will be. Three eclectic local bands for 6 quid, who said rock ‘n’ roll is dead?

 

Author: Ben Hughes

Photographs: Neil Vary 

Ben Hughes

Now here’s a crackin’ combo if ever I saw one. Dwarves guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named and our very own punk rock faves The Hip Priests joining forces for a string of UK shows. A trip to the Brudenell in Leeds was a given for me, The Hip Priests were mighty with Thee Hypnotics earlier this year and He Who Cannot Be Named…well, how can you not be intrigued by a guy who wears just a ski mask and a codpiece on stage? I can’t wait to battle through the punk rock hordes to the front for a magnificent hot and sweaty punk rock show.

 

Hang fire a minute! Have I got the wrong night or even the wrong venue? There’s some shite indie band called 77:78 on in the main room and this show is in the Community Room tonight. Ok, I’ve seen bands in there before, it’s not the same atmosphere, more of a school gym feel, but hey ho…let’s go!

It’s 8.30pm, The Hip Priests are due on and there is nobody here, literally nobody! What the hell Leeds, is there some other show going on I don’t know about?

They give it 15 minutes before cracking on as the Spasm Gang Leeds massive finally filter in, 25 people at a stretch and it doesn’t get any busier for the whole night. If this was York, I could understand it, but Jesus, this is Leeds! We are in the heart of studentville with the Uni just around the corner and the bar next door is jam-packed with alternative looking dudes and dudettes who seem none the wiser about some punk rock show going on next door.

 

Zero fucks are given by The Hip Priests, they play a blinder anyways. From the opening salvo of ‘Livin’ Breathin’ Lightning’ and ‘Instant Delinquent’ to the closing ‘Sonic Reproducer,’ they deliver 40 minutes of high octane rock ‘n’ roll with all the thrills and spills you could desire.

The black denim clad brothers, led by panda eyed singer Nathan Von Cruz, blast their way through a selection of 7 inch singles and choice album cuts from their very strong back catalogue of Stooges/Hellacopters influenced rock ‘n’ roll.

To Von Cruz’s left, bassist Lee Love keeps the low end tight and guitarist Silent Mike keeps the riffs coming, giving Austin Rocket the freedom to pull all the rock guitarist shapes he can muster stage right. With his back arched and his guitar pointed to the stars, he peels off sonically powered licks and wah-wah induced solos on the likes of ‘MF Superior’.

With chanting choruses aplenty, the likes of ‘Jesus Died So We Could Ride’, ‘Sha Na Na Na Nihilist’ and latest single ‘Cheers To Me’ would make even the most staid of observers nod their heads and sing along.

The Hip Priests look and sound fantastic, and with more than a handful of glorious anthems to get high and get wasted to, can you really deny them their claim to be “the best band on shit island”?

 

When you come on stage with nothing but a studded leather codpiece, a Mexican wrestler mask and an arsenal of quirky punk rock anthems such as ‘Getting Pissed’ and ‘Duct Tape Love’, the chances are you will not fail to entertain. And Dwarves guitar slinger He Who Cannot Be Named does just that, with the help of a very tight band.

Running through his solo back catalogue and a few Dwarves songs for good measure, the band veer between catchy Ramones styled goodness and fast as fuck hardcore. They even chuck in a fantastic cover of ‘Commando’ for good measure. Rarely have songs about drinking, fucking things and killing things sounded so uplifting!

While HWCBN handles lead vocals, quirky moves and switching between two battered road worn guitars, its bassist Bobby Wilcox who takes center stage and does most of the talking. With his bass hanging from his knees and sporting a Ramones shirt, he looks and plays the part to perfection. To his side, Keith Mueller plays the leads and Eric Borst seems to be having the time of his life bashing away on them skins behind them, what a drummer!

Talking of behinds, the drummer wasn’t the only one to get an eyeful of bare punk rock arse. The moment HWCBN bends over to change his amp settings will be embedded in my mind for some time. Let’s just say that codpiece was a little on the loose side. Unfortunately, you can’t un-see some things!

‘I Eat Babies’ sounds amazing, pure pop-punk goodness, and there’s plenty of “oi oi” style chanters thrown in for good measure. ‘Good Problem’ from the newly released album ‘The Good, The Bad and the Brutal’ is instant and fits the set perfectly.

To be honest, He Who Cannot Be Named were the most entertaining band whose songs I don’t really know, that I have seen in a long time (if you catch my drift?).

 

The Leeds punk massive may have stayed at home, but the faithful few were treated to two great bands tonight that truly deserved a bigger crowd. I just hope the crowds are bigger for the rest of the dates, as I don’t believe this is just a Northern thing, is it?

I am trying not to be too downhearted about gig attendances, but with disappointing turnouts at the last 4 gigs I have attended, it does make me worry about the future of underground music. I feel for the bands, I really do, it must be soul destroying playing to empty rooms, but the likes of The Hip Priests and He Who Cannot Be Named are consummate professionals and continue to play every show like its packed, and it’s up to all of us to continue supporting live music before the bands we love disappear for good.

 

Buy He Who Cannot Be Named Here

Buy The Hip Priests Here

Photos courtesy of Neil Vary Photography