Sturdy Wrists

When I went back to work at 5am on Monday I only had four days off between then and finishing for Christmas. Make that five. As I’ve ended up with an unwelcome sick day today. I wait nearly two years for a day ill and I end up with three in a month or so. Oh well.

On Friday I will be adding Manchester’s Sound Control to a pretty prestigious looking list of venues. The Wheatsheaf, Stoke. JB’s, Dudley. The Foundry, Birmingham. Bradford Rios. Astoria, London. Jilly’s, Manchester. Some of the venues where I’ve spent many an hour in the last three decades. With the exception of the Wheatsheaf which was remodelled as a no music pub, all are now closed and several demolished.

My listing isn’t 100% accurate as I know there are dozens of shows missing from my list of Wheatsheaf gigs, but my top ten venues account for 474 sets witnessed (not actual gigs but the different performances by the bands seen). From those ten stages only four are places I can still look forward to seeing a band in. The tenth on the list is one I haven’t been to since 2001. It sporadically has gigs, but not by any bands I want to see.

In 48 hours the final curtain for me in Sound Control comes down when San Diegan’s Rocket From The Crypt play the venue. At some point in the near future the building will be demolished to make way for student accommodation for the huge university campus less than a mile down Oxford Road. The university grounds are also the first place where I saw the band play in 1996 and I haven’t seen the band in the intervening 21 years either.

Guitarist and vocalist Speedo (John Reis to his parents) and his band of well dressed merry-men formed in 1990. Their early albums are great pieces of melodic punk rock, but their big break in the UK came with the success of album number four Scream, Dracula, Scream! in 1995 which spawned their biggest UK chart hit On A Rope reaching the dizzy heights of number 12. A decade and three albums later the band split bar a one off show until a full reformation in 2013.

Almost four years ago to the day was the last time I should’ve seen the band, again in Manchester, but I was under the weather and didn’t make the show. Fingers crossed that isn’t the case come Friday.

As I found out last time I wrote about the sextet, the official RFTC videos are notoriously hard to find on YouTube, unless I’m looking in the wrong places? Sturdy Wrists is linked here from the Daily Motion site, so I hope it plays OK. The track was released on the 1992 album Circa: Now!


Pretend We’re Dead


As I no longer have my season ticket for the football I’m attempting to do a higher percentage of gigs over the weekend rather than on a week night, especially if I’m working the next day. Old age finally catching up? For the rest of the month of September this ideology works extremely well, come October it’s looking very busy on the gig front. 

For tonight’s entertainment I’m debating a train ride up to Manchester to see Los Angeles rockers L7 for the first time. Formed in 1985 as a punk band, they ended up being quite a big deal in the 1990’s. They eventually split in 2001 but thirteen years later they reformed with a lineup that was together during the mid 80’s for a decade. 

When the media started picking up on the female quartet I was in the twilight years of a teenager and listening to more diverse things. Seattle was conquering the planet with plaid clad grunge bands. On the coattails of grunge was the riot grrrl movement. Even though L7 were at that time much more rockier than both genres. With their image of ripped jeans, multi coloured hair, more plaid shirts and a penchant for controversy and writing short catchy tunes they found a wide fan base spread over multiple scenes. Their first two albums were released on Sub Pop and Epitaph, labels at the time synonymous with grunge and pop punk bands respectively. 

Most of the bands controversial points seem to have occurred on this side of the Atlantic. Possibly the most infamous is guitarist and vocalist Donita Sparks dropping her jeans and performed nude from the waist down during a live performance of this track on The Word – a late night British TV show – in 1992. 

The Word was a magazine show and was quite groundbreaking with some of the musical acts it featured during its tenure, things like Nirvana’s first international TV appearance occurred on an episode of the programme. But the show was fronted by some really annoying and amateur presenters, and the chaotic format revelled in its self induced controversies and enjoyed the condemnation it received in the media. From a musical point of view it could have been a great programme but the rest of the chaff dragged it down, even though it ran for a surprising five years. 

Pretend We’re Dead is their breakthrough track and is taken from the groups third release Bricks Are Heavy, which became their most successful album in their career. 



Bring Out Your Dead


It’s the last bank holiday weekend in the UK until the Christmas festivities are up on us (Christmas mentioned in consecutive posts and its only August!) and as it’s usually a pretty dull and damp squib of a weekend I am (or more so was) tempted to have a drive down to London to catch Strung Out at the Camden Underworld. I’m saying drive as I’ve not looked yet, but undoubtedly there will be next to no public transport running to the north of this country much after 9pm which is rather unhelpful for a gig due to finish around 11pm. 

I adore their first two albums – Another Day in Paradise and Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues released in 1994 and 1996 respectively. I think I took a liking a bit more instantaneously to these guys over some other stuff on the Fat Wreck Chords rosta due to them incorporating a few heavy metal hooks into their primarily melodic punk sound. An added bonus for a transitioning metal head. 

The only time I’ve seen the band live are a brace shows back in January 1997 in Leeds and Birmingham with Diesel Boy – I think. I’m pretty sure they were amongst their first UK shows too. 

Three fifths of the band have been a constant since day one and they have released new music on a pretty regular basis since their formation in California’s Simi Valley back in 1989. They’ve played over here on regular intervals ever since but as I drifted away from the lighter pop punk side of things to a more brooding and heavier sub genre I’ve missed seeing them in the intervening 19 years. I was a “buying” fan up to their third album Twisted By Design and from the other five releases I think I’ve only partially listened to Blackhawks Over Los Angeles. 

As per usual the London show appears to be a one off appearance tagged on the end of their mainland European jaunt. From the online posters I’ve seen London and Norwich seem to have a date announced with free days either side. I’m hoping I don’t wake up on Tuesday morning to find out that they played Manchester or somewhere close the evening before when I do my time consuming overnight social media catch up prior to leaving for work. 

With the addition of the fur ball known as Ozymandias to the household and potentially gigs either side of Strung Out this 330 mile round trip will regrettably be put in the pipe dreams folder and unfortunately my presence around the house will be required. Family time and all that apparently. 

The most official video for this track seems to be a live version interspersed with snowboarding and stuff with a bit of a ropey sound. Instead here’s a fan made video for the song. As soon as I hear that distorted riff kicking in to start the song my hand immediately reaches for the volume control and crank it up several notches. It is such an ominous start to a song.