We often have a good moan on here about bands advertising UK tours and then post 4 dates in middle England or 6 dates with the token in Scotland.  Well, the Bellrays do it old school.  they take one of the finest bands out as tour openers and also throw in the excellent The Charlemagnes for good measure and then charge us less than fifteen pounds! yup, all that Rock and Roll for the price of three pints – what a bargain. Oh and they pop over the bridge (like they always do) and play in Wales.

It’s the excellent Newport Le Pub where we find ourselves for this post-Christmas celebration and we’re reminded by Lisa Kekaula that this is the evening of the bands thirtieth year in existence and funnily enough the last time they were in this very venue it was the night of hers and Robert Vennum’s wedding anniversary. Anyway, before we get to the main course there are two very tasty appetizers ahead of us and the first course is  The Charlemagnes a four-piece from outta Sarf London but with an exotic past and existence. They’ve been here before but that was several years and maybe now is the time for some sleazy garage Rock and Roll.  they get down to business and then a string is broken but it doesn’t derail the band nor does them playing two songs at the same time hey nobody would have known but we appreciate the attention to detail and after a false start they regain composure and go again.  It’s not long before they are motoring through their material and boy does it sound good.  They have swagger and most importantly of all they have the tunes to back it up. the highlights from their brief but most enjoyable set were ‘(No) Pay Day (In the USA)’ and ‘Shellshock Shuffle’.  Sadly the set was over and off they went but they’d left a mark on those watching who couldn’t help but be impressed by The Charlemagnes.

Next up is the magnificent Los Pepes. A band bristling with energy and great songs. With four studio albums, a Greatest Hits compilation and a raft of 7″ singles under their collective belts it’s fair to say that Los Pepes don’t wait to be invited into the studio and Ben must sleep about half an hour a day such is his output because it seems that when they’re not playing somewhere in Europe they’re recording a new record. Now if you’ve not heard of Los Pepes until now there is a wealth of records for you to go and invest in before you settle down to kick yourself over and over for joining the party this late in the game. But, the fact you’re here now is good and better late than never.

It’s been a while since I last saw the band and there have been a few line-up changes but they move so fast it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a revolving door put in their tour van.  I’m sure it’s not easy keeping up the pace but tonight (their first show in Wales) they are on form as power through their set of motorhead using AC/DC’s amps playing power-pop  (that just about sums them up) oh and chucking songs out like prime time Dee Dee and da Brothers.  Hooks they’ve got em, Melodies got them too. Catchy body movers?  Of course, you can’t stand still because they can’t either.  If I had to pick a song then when they plowed through ‘Automatic’ and ‘The Trap’ but there were so many great songs in their repertoire it doesn’t matter what they play to be fair they could play the yellow pages and make it sound vital and exciting.

I was in power pop heaven as my ears were taking a pounding. The PA was shaking due to the volume they play at but if it’s too loud you’re too old. Los Pepes came, saw and conquered.  Now you’ve popped your cherry don’t leave it too long before heading back this way – Newport Loves you long time Los Pepes.

Onto the Bellrays.  To have such a strong pair of opening acts is quite refreshing that they want to offer as much VFM and are confident in themselves and their own catalogue of songs that they brave following Los Pepes. Anyway, the walls are beginning to sweat as Lisa gets on with the show and rock the house with ‘Bad Reaction’ from their last studio album and for the next hour and some the proceed to turn up the Rock and Roll quota with their soul meets garage meets Rock and punk attitude tunes all lead by the awesome vocals of Lisa Kekaula as she compares the finale of this rock and roll revue and not for one second throughout the bands faultless set do they drop the energy or delivery.  Sure you get the bluesy soulful funky workouts James Brown-style but we all need to catch out-breath. This band are relentlessly entertaining and have the songs in the bank.

The set was building and building and the three out front all took turns on vocals that lead to the finale of ‘Love And Hard Times’ and ‘Black Lightning’ after dipping into songs from all throughout their career their thirty-year career that is. All around were exhausted smiling faces after the perfect ending to a wonderful night of Rock and Roll and it has to be said how sharp and right on the money the sound was tonight.  Loud but never too loud and all three bands brought their best.

Always a good time watching The Bellrays and here’s to many more anniversaries held in the confines of Le Pub,  see you next time.

Author: Dom Daley

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Blues is the teacher. Punk is the preacher. It’s all about emotion and energy, experience and raw talent, spirit and intellect. Exciting things happen when these things collide.

Bob Vennum and Lisa Kekaula made the BellRays happen in 1991 in East LA but they weren’t really thinking about any of this then. They wanted to play music and they wanted it to feel good. They wanted people to WANT to get up, to NEED to get up and check out what was going on. Form an opinion. React.

So they took everything they knew about; the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, the Who, the Ramones, Billie Holiday, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams, the DB’s, Jimmy Reed, Led Zeppelin, to name a very few and pressed it into service.

It was never about coming up with a ‘sound’, or fitting in with a scene. It was about the energy that made all that music so irresistible. It was the history BEFORE Led Zeppelin that led them to that point. The Beatles thought they were playing R&B. It just came out like ‘Rubber Soul’. The Ramones were trying to be Del Shannon or Neil Sedaka and out came ‘Rocket to Russia’.

With the BellRays there was no conscious effort to ‘combine’ rock and soul because they didn’t see them as divided in the first place. Blues was teaching. Punk was preaching. The BellRays were always listening.

www.thebellrays.com

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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.