Real Thing

After much procrastinating on Sunday morning about my participation at this years Download Festival I eventually made it to a patch of grass underneath the flight path to the Nottingham East Midlands airport.

Even though I was there for a mere six hours I saw the bands I wanted to see, just about, and stumbled upon a band I’ve know by name for a long time but have never seen live or paid any attention to.

• Hatebreed are a slickly oiled machine and never disappoint in the live setting.

• Dead Cross were suitably insane in a good way. I actually think it’s the first time I’ve seen Mike Patton live even though I first head Faith No More nearly 28 years ago!

• Kreator were the consummate professionals and even through they were low on the bill and only had a little over 30 minutes they played like headliners.

• Body Count was another first for me and were as good as I expected them to be and got the metal crowd going by opening up with Slayer’s Raining Blood. It’s a shame their London headline show with Crisix is on a Tuesday night.

• Thrice from Irvine, California was what I expected to be a lull in proceedings and opted for food. I was absolutely captivated by them and now need to check out their back catalogue. This is what festivals are for – discovering new acts.

• Meshuggah were brutal and technically heavy as expected. A band I’ve seen a few times in two decades, but very rarely really listen to.

• Shinedown were the entertainers. The frontman loves the sound of his own voice a little bit too much, but he can get a crowd going. I’ve never seen a crowd as big as that bounce in unison. Some great hits too.

I also had the misfortune to be within earshot for In This Moment and Black Veil Brides for a few minutes each. The less said about them the better.

Moving on I’m hoping for another last minute jaunt to Leeds to finally see Turnstile live. I’ve been listening to them since their debut disc Nonstop Feeling dropped three and a half years ago and in that time I’ve missed them on multiple occasions.

I was double booked when they last played close to me in December 2015. They were on stupidly early when I attended Ghostfest earlier in the same year and I was sat in roadworks on the M62. The only other time I got close to seeing them was when they played Hellfest 2016 and rather than roadworks I was stuck in a slow moving queue of people shuffling to get into the festival.

Hopefully it’ll be fourth time lucky and fingers crossed it won’t have sold out before I finally try and snag a ticket. I’ve got a few other shows I want to get tickets for in a short space of time and Outbreak has had to take a back seat for now.

I haven’t listened to their sophomore album Time & Space, releases earlier this year, as much as I’d like to have done, even though it’s only 25 minutes long. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the more experimental stuff goes over live.

Even though I’ve drifted away from the live hardcore arena over the last few years I’m still really looking to seeing quite a few bands on the Saturday. New Jersey’s Floorpunch are another band I’ve been into for a long time now and never seen live.

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Institutionalized 2014

A few weeks go I though any shows further than the Greater Manchester area were on the back burner, pretty much until the Iron Maiden show in July. Last weekend saw me make the trek over the Pennines to Leeds to catch another stunning and rather sweaty Suffocation gig and a week today I could make the same trip for the Outbreak Festival.

Depending on the weather I might be making my first appearance at the Download Festival since 2014. I’d been every year since its inception, but the whole thing started to feel like a drag. I wasn’t intending on going in 2014, but with Quicksand appearing I had to go.

The whole event always seems to be cursed with bad weather. I have never been as wet as I have been at Donington in some years. The deluges of 2010 and 2011 were horrendous. Even my belt was saturated and I couldn’t wait to get home and have a warm shower. I was going to head there a few years ago when Iron Maiden graced the stage, but again it hammered it down and I stayed home in the dry.

The line ups haven’t been great for my tastes either. I know it’s me getting old, and as my slippers state, grumpy. There are also way too many bands over the four stages and way to much traversing between those stages to see bands and ultimately missing large chunks by either getting there too late or having to leave part way though due to clashes. I don’t know why they don’t keep genres together on some of the stages and cut down on some of the mass movement.

On Sunday there are about 40 bands playing and around ten of those I’d pay to see, or have a curiosity to view. Almost half of those bands clash with each other. At one point in the day there are three bands I’d like to see on different stages at the same time!

Back in 2016 I attended Hellfest in France. It’s on a similar scale in relation to punters and artists to Download, but has two more stages and the whole arena area seems smaller. The main stages are side by side and three other stages are all close to each other. Moving around was extremely easy and over the three days I caught around forty acts.

There weren’t too many bands that I am aware of that played less than thirty minute sets, where as some of Downloads opening acts get a measly 25 minute slot. A trio of tomorrows bands that I’m interested in, and these are established bands with long histories, are only getting a paltry half an hour. It’s definitely a festival with its ideology in quantity over quality. Hellfest also starts earlier and ends much later. The days seemed like they would be a massive slog, but time passed quickly for most of the day as you were constantly watching bands rather that hiking backwards and forwards through ankle deep mud to catch snippets of bands.

Even prior to the festival the continental organisers do things better. We had the stage times for weeks beforehand and were constantly looking and comparing and generally getting excited about who we were seeing and bemoaning the odd clashes here and there (Deicide and King Diamond on the last day was my biggest concern.) Download decided to release their times to an app on Monday afternoon, less than 48 hours before those who are camping descended onto the Castle Donington site. This could purely be a money making exercise to force people to part with their cash and purchase the overpriced running time laminates. Hellfest even had the stage times up at the entrance to every stage for all to view.

Having ran down the the festival I’m hoping in 25 hours time I’m there in time to catch either Hatebreed or Dead Cross (Dave Lombardo and Mike Patton might win out on that clash!), Kreator, Body Count then either Shinedown, Myrkur or Messhugah (or parts of) before heading back up the A50 home. There are a few later bands I’d gladly stand and watch, but with a 3:40am alarm call on Monday for work I have to draw the line somewhere.

Body Count is the rap rock, almost a crossover thrash metal band, fronted by actor and rapper Ice T. The band were formed in 1990 and instantly gained notoriety due to their track Cop Killer that was on their debut album.

They’ve played quite a few UK shows over the years, but nothing here since 1997 that didn’t involve a festival. They could’ve had more shows here but several got cancelled due to the backlash of Cop Killer, quite ironic for an actor that had played a NYPD detective in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for 18 years. If I remember correctly, one of those “banned” concerts should have taken place at the Students Union in Keele University, 7 miles up the road for me and one that I probably would have attended.

In 2014 Body Count released their Manslaughter album and it features a modern reworking of Suicidal Tendencies’ Institutionalized. When Mike Muir wrote it back in 1982 I don’t think Xbox was a thing!

Edge Of A Broken Heart

I have one day left at work and then it’s a three day weekend in the UK. The weather is going to be reasonable and hopefully I’ll get chance to venture out if the house. There’s a jazz and blues festival on locally, no acts I’m familiar with apart from Peter Frampton, and that’s only a solitary track of his I know. But there is a record fare happening on Sunday and weather permitting, as it’s held out doors, I’ll go and have a peruse if the boxes of records and make lots of weird sounds that usually translate into “how much!”

Saturday could bring yet another trip to Manchester to another new venue for me. There are two bands playing that I’m intrigued to see. It’s being held in Factory or FAC251, which I think was the head offices for Factory Records, a label synonymous with Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays.

Opening up the show is West Midlands band Sister Shotgun. I’ve not had chance to see them live and I’ve heard a few of their tracks. I’m interested to see them off the back of a recommendation from a customer of mine. The guitarist of Crewe based band Fallen used to work in a shop I delivered to and we used to have a chat about music and stuff. His band played with them locally and he said how good they were live. They’ve been getting around a lot just lately and have a new guitarist in the fold.

Headlining is Janet Gardner Page, not exactly a household name, but for people, especially guys, of my age and into rock during the same era she was the front woman and guitarist with the big hair in Vixen. They’re a band I first heard on the Friday Rock Show hosted by Timmy Vance on Radio 1. I think it was the Edge if a Broken Heart single that was played late on the Friday night and by Saturday afternoon I had the 7” vinyl in my hands.

They’d been together since the early 70’s surprisingly, but didn’t gain any mainstream recognition until 1988’s eponymous debut and their sophomore release Rev It Up in 1990. I never heard past that second album and I do t think I’ve ever heard Tangerine.

Richard Marx coproduced the debut album and wrote Edge of a Broken Heart. At the same time the band were getting some big opening slots on tours with the likes of Bon Jovi, Scorpions and KISS. Musical differences lead to a split and there have been several reunions over the years.

I remember watching something on VH1 called bands reunited where they attempted to bring bands back together. The idea was to a specific line up in the same room and it was deemed a success if they performed. I saw odd episodes here and there. A Flock of Seagulls and Berlin were successful. Holly Johnson refused to perform with Frankie Goes to Hollywood and at the time Extreme was a failure. Vixen put aside their differences and did play.

In 2012 a classic reunion was on the cards, but guitarist Jan Kuehnemund was diagnosed with cancer and passed away towards the end of 2013. The three remains classic members have carried on as a tribute to her and an album is planned.

Vixen have been playing live sporadically over the last four years, mainly in the States and a few dates in Canada and Europe. They played Hard Rock Hell in 2016, an event I unfortunately didn’t attend. There was a tour in 2006 for some version of the band which apparently stopped off in Crewe. They played the Limelight and it took me a dozen years to find out. It’s closed now and looking rather dilapidated, but it was one of those venues that never seemed to bother with too much promotion and hoped for word of mouth from regular barflies.

1991 saw them supporting Deep Purple over here. The year before saw some of their own dates and a few supporting Scorpions and on the bill for the prestigious Bon Jovi soirée at the Milton Keynes Bowl.

In all my time I’ve never had chance to see Vixen, and to date Saturday will be the closest I have been. Janet plays some stuff from her self named debut solo album from last year with a smattering of Vixen hits thrown in. They’re due to play the Rockingham event in Nottingham in October with some other AOR and hair bands mainly from yesteryear, but for what I’d have to pay to get in and what I’d get from the weekend it’s currently out of reach of my budget. But never say never.

Gutter Ballet

Today musically has been an all out heavy metal feast. Some rogue bands from neighbouring genres snuck into the mix at various points as my iTunes really does need a good spring clean.

After another ten minute epic from Iron Maiden had finished a very basic piano interlude kicked in then a drum intro that could’ve graced many radio friendly AOR ballads from the 80’s. As soon as I heard the first notes on the piano I instantly thought to myself I’ve not heard this song in such a long time. Eighteen minutes later I’d gone through my third play of Gutter Ballet.

It’s such a fantastic track, very emotional and heart felt once it really gets going. I’ve had this song in my collection for an age but it rarely gets an outing. With a lot of songs, albums and bands from that era I can pinpoint to some degree how or why I picked up on it. With this song and album of the same name I don’t have much idea. It’s just always been there, loitering around in my collection. It’s also one of those songs I recognise instantly and I’d class it as a favourite song, but it’s also one I neglect for far long too. Maybe I was introduced to it via MTV? I know none of my friends at the time were fans of the band.

For the beginnings of Savatage you have to go back to the end of the 70’s when Criss and Jon Olivia founded a band called Avatar in Florida. Before their debut album Sirens was released in 1983 their name has morphed into Savatage. Gutter Ballet and Streets: A Rock Opera (and coincidentally the only two albums I own on CD by the band) propelled them closer to the major league. Their fourth album Edge of Thorns surfaced in 1993, but six months after its release guitarist Criss died on a road traffic accident caused by a drunk driver.

The band carried on until 2002 and released four more albums. Jon formed Jon Olivia’s Pain and was involved with the Trans Siberian Orchestra until Savatage was reactivated in 2014 and played their only show at Wacken a year later. And that’s been about it. No other live shows or albums even though they’re supposedly a going concern.

For my sins I’ve only probably listened to the aforementioned trio of albums in full in all of my years listening to heavy music. I might have Hall of the Mountain King in my digital library, but that’s not a very good return for a band who’ve released eleven albums. I’ve easily listened to Trans Siberian Orchestra more as they’ve been a constant around Christmas time for a number of years now.

They didn’t play too many shows in the UK, around a dozen, but I’m not sure if I actually saw them live. They played with Judas Priest on their Demolition tour when Ripper Owens replaced Rob Halford. I know I caught the tour at the Academy in Birmingham, but I honestly can’t recall seeing Savatage. I’m guessing the M6 was still a pain to traverse back in 2001!

One thing I do know though is I’ll be listening to much more of their output over the coming weeks now that today’s six minute blast of sheer class has reignited the spark.

The Real Me

Time for a bit of a nostalgia trip today!

I thoroughly enjoyed last nights death metal shindig, even if there wasn’t much of a crowd in attendance. It seemed odd how I saw some familiar faces for one of the local bands and didn’t see them make an appearance for the rest of the evening, and it’s not the first time I’ve witnessed that in Manchester. Very weird, but as usual though it’s their loss.

This morning I caught the back end of the FA Cup Final highlights on the TV. During the end credits there was a montage of past finals and memorable moments. Very few finals stick in my mind as my team have only ever participated in one during our 155 year history and we lost that one in 2011. The five nil win in the semi final was a much more enjoyable day out.

Another memory is from the 1989 final that I watched on the television. Liverpool versus Everton, a little over a month after the Hillsborough tragedy killed 96 Liverpool fans. The red side of Merseyside won on the day. Nothing there really to get a Stoke fan all excited about, but I’ll always associate one of Ian Rush’s goals with my very first gig as a 15 year old. Nothing too fancy or exquisite about it, just the memory of it hitting the back of the net and knocking a camera to the floor.

Not long after the belated final whistle due to extra time, I was on a bus with two friends and we ate at McDonald (when going there was actually more of an occasion for country bumpkins like us) before we went to the Victoria Hall in Hanley to see W.A.S.P. I’m pretty sure it was the first gig for two thirds of the trio, it definitely was for me.

That was on May 20th 1989, 29 years ago today (or thanks to an app on my phone 10,592 days). Quite a lot has gone on in those intervening years, almost 18 years of those have been as a married man! Left school. Had gainful employment in four jobs, the current one I’ve been at for two decades. A few weddings and a few funerals and a couple of fur babies and nephews and several visits to A&E along the way. Scary stuff when you start to break things down.

I almost went to see the W.A.S.P. tribute band Electric Circus in Nottingham last night. If I’d have paid more attention to the significance of May 19th then I might have made the effort in some kind of bizarre loop connecting together. Maybe for the 30 year anniversary?

Gig wise I’ve seen over 1,170 different artists in more than 230 unique venues and visited much of the British Isles thanks to my addiction to live music. It’s also taken me to shows in fourteen different countries and given me a pretty massive (impressive?) t-shirt collection! I’m not sure how many actual concerts I’ve attended as the SetlistFM database lists a performance as a concert.

If, like last night, four bands played and they’re all in their database it shows it as four concerts, rather than just the one. Sometime when I’m at a real loose end I might work out how many actual concerts I have attended. I know there are many that I was present at that I have no recollection of or those that I do I have no definitive dates.

So in honour of my first show 348 moths ago here’s something by the first headlining band that made my ears ring. Taken from the album that the band were touring at the time, The Headless Children and still a favourite record of mine after all these years, The Real Me is a cover from The Who and was originally released on theirQuadrophenia album that is a little over a month older than I am (released in October 1973). I wonder if I can do another 348 months worth of shows? It’d only take me to 2047 as I approach my 75th birthday. It will be interesting to see what the music scene is like in another 29 years.

Restored To Life

Earlier in the week we invested in a cheap garden bench to try and force ourselves to take a bit more pride in our tiny patch of grass. Rather than deciding to cut it once the dog was buried in foot long green blades, we’re hoping it’ll get us outside a bit more. This morning was my first al fresco breakfast (well cereal and a coffee) on the bench, but at 9:30am still not quite in the sun. At least Ozzie is having fun running around and yapping at random nothingness.

One thing I need to invest in is some kind of outdoor Bluetooth speaker to crank out some tunes early in the morning – mainly to annoy our house music loving neighbours who haven’t long called it quits and retired to their beds. On a day dominated with a media frenzy of a Royal wedding and an FA Cup final, I have zero interest in either, so I’ve had to find my own entertainment for this evening.

Tonight I’m off to see an old school death metal band in the shape of Sabiendas from the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. They’re a new name to me and I unfortunately only showed an interest in the show due to Derbyshire’s Forgotten Remains being added to the bill, coincidentally another band I caught at Thrashersaurus a few weekends prior.

So far I’ve only had time to listen to their Column of Skulls album from 2015 and not had a chance to search out their debut album Restored to Life yet. Listening to this album I’m subconsciously thinking of a band sounding akin to Grave and a less technical version of Morbid Angel as I blast this out in the yard as the sun carry’s on creeping around, tonight should be a bargain night of death metal. And if I had something more substantial to listen to it on rather than the iPhones speakers it would annoy the neighbours without a doubt.

Prior to the German’s shows so far this weekend I’m not sure if they’ve ever graced UK shores previously. A quick look on SetlistFM only shows a handful of shows in Germany and the Netherlands, but I’d put my house on them playing many more shows during their dozen year existence.

With the addition of Forgotten Remains on a bill that has seemingly been fraught with line up changes, hopefully the Manchester death metal fraternity will show up in decent numbers. Eight quid on the door isn’t a lot to ask, considering many of us probably shelled much more than that yesterday for Slayer tickets.

Needless to say I haven’t seen the band live yet, but scouring the web for the tour posters I came across the running order for the Eindhoven Metal Meeting that I attended last December and they were the band on prior to Mortal Strike, the first band we were in the Effenar for, so I only just missed out on seeing them. If only we had one less IPA in the Drinkers Pub beforehand.

Tainted Love

Hello people of the blogosphere. Remember me? Once again it’s been a minute since I was last here. Sometimes you just have to stay in the adult world and forsake other things. Having said that though quite a lot of my spare time, and weekends in particular have been taken up with gigs and all (unfortunately) within the borders of Great Britain.

Prior to my hiatus I had a 480 mile round trip to Glasgow for the Lords of the Land festival which was superb. I passed up a trip to Stuttgart to see Metallica to head to Scotland to catch Demolition Hammer and Dark Angel. What a hard decision that was, but ultimately the correct decision.

A few weeks later saw we covering another 460 miles to catch two Power Trip shows in Birmingham and London. Well worth the effort even if the sets were short. It’s a shame the return trip from London was tainted by a train full of celebratory and drunken Manchester United fans on their way home. And football fans wonder why they’re despised by Joe Public so much.

The following weekend was the deadline for finishing my man cave! A month after it was set (well five weeks) all my vinyl was out of their plastic coffins and more compact discs were on display. It’s been the first time some of the pieces of 12” PVC circles have seen sunlight since they were left the shop! On top of the music side, several hundred t-shirts (mainly black) were sorted, folded and stored in various locations. There are a few things to be done to finish it off, but the difference between this time last year and now is unrecognisable.

That weekend I ended up missing a a few local shows, gutted I missed Havok and Harlott in Birmingham and I was planing (plotting?) a flying trip to the Netherlands to see Flotsam & Jetsam, but I was a responsible adult – nothing to do with dragging my heels over a flight and the cost just spiralling. Honest.

To celebrate the following weekend I had four shows in five days. It could’ve been five in five, but I bailed on Zeke as two successive midweek nights in Manchester were unpalatable. The weekend culminated in another trip in excess of 400 miles to Norwich for Thrashersarus. An intimate shindig headlined by one of the UK’s finest thrash proponents Xentrix.

Oddly enough last week was the filling in an Xentrix sandwich (yes I know the filling is in the middle, but as a metaphor it sounds better!) when on Saturday I had the shorter trip, only a 188 mile round trip, to Keighley in West Yorkshire for Manorfest. Headlines by Evile, with their returning guitar brethren Ol Drake and ably supported by Birmingham old school death metal band Memoriam. A new band on the “scene” with a life time of history behind them.

Before the Iron Maiden machine rolls into my sights in June I think most of my shows between now and then are mainly in Manchester and the surrounding area, maybe a quick trip to Leeds in five weeks for Outbreak, but nowhere near a London venue or much further than 50 miles away. There is a small matter of planning some Slayer farewell shows, but the reality of those don’t kick in until November.

As the bright yellow disc in the sky has made an appearance lately it’s an appropriate time to partake in some pop punk tuneage and cast away the seemingly over long winter gloom.

Coincidentally this pop punk revival on the iPhone has come at a time where my nephew has been showing a liking for the genre. I think most of his interest is peer pressure from his school friends, but I’d like to think I’ve had some subliminal input on his 14 years on this revolving sphere.

He’s at a similar age as I was when I was discovering my musical tastes, but as I’ve said before he’s had it much easier. The wife and I popped over with a card and cash, gone are the days of hunting for Toy Story merch or the latest sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who. He mentioned he’d been looking for a Panic! At the Disco shirt, but locally there was nothing available.

Being the good uncle that I am to the nephew dubbed mini me in my presence, sent a link to the youngling for Panic! shirts from Impericon. A few days later I was informed via Messenger he now had a Panic! clothing. Uncle-ing done right, much to his parents dismay no doubt.

Last week I was flicking through the TV channels in sheer boredom and I came across the top 50 skate punk anthems on Kerrang! TV. A swift message to mini me and it was like we were watching the television in the same room for a few hours. The list was pretty bland, just as I’d expect from that media outlet in 2018. Lots of Green Day, the Offspring, Sum 41, Blink-182 and Bowling For Soup. I can’t recall anything by the likes of NOFX, Pennywise, Strung Out, no female voices or anything from outside of the North American and Canadian borders.

Thanks to Spotify he is now in possession of a 103 song playlist of some of my favourite pop punk anthems from yesteryear, with some classic punk from the Ramones, the Clash and Misfits rubbing shoulders with Bad Religion, Snuff and Samiam. Let’s hope he gives some of it a listen and likes something that he won’t be offered by today’s media.

I thought I’d already featured the likes of the Offspring, Green Day, NOFX and that ilk in this blog already, but apparently not. Now it’s summer be prepared for more happy and bouncy interludes in between the usually stern and serious death metal and thrash outings, and lyrics you can understand.

First up in the mini pop punk revolution is Shades Apart from the Revelation Records stable of the mid 90’s with their version of the Gloria Jones song Tainted Love. The Northern Soul song was released in 1965, but made famous 18 years later by Soft Cell and Marilyn Manson thrust it on a new generation of kids two decades later.

I saw the New Jersey natives Shades Apart several times back in 1997 and I’m pretty sure they played this song. After their Save It and Seeing Things albums released by Revelation in 1995 and 1997 I lost track of the band. According to Wiki they split in 2003 and reformed in 2012 and are still an entity. I’ll delve into their history a bit more at a later date.