Wednesday 10 November 2021

The Hunna, Rock City, Nottingham

There are two support acts Kelsey Karter with her band and Idolising Nova. Unfortunately Karter is on at 6:45 which isn't conducive to those of us who work. This also enables those that don’t and/or the students to get there first and grab all the best spots. So I am unusually a fair way back for this gig and for once feeling a bit old amongst a very young crowd.

Idolising Nova are Jack Fulton Smith and Kyle O’Sullivan, they hail from Peterborough, have some decent indie tunes and fancy light show. They are pleasant enough but probably aren't what most of us have come here for tonight.


They're certainly not like the Hunna, who open with just front man Ryan Potter and drummer Jack Metcalfe on stage. Potter sits wearing a balaclava in front of a door positioned in the centre of the stage. This is ‘One Hell of a Gory Story’ and that eases us into ‘I Wanna Know’ which is accompanied by copious amounts limb flailing from the crowd. Not with my knees sadly. As I say, feeling a bit old tonight.

The energy of the opening never wanes and neither do Potter’s lungs, which are highly impressive. An honourable mention too to guitarist Dan Dorney who matches Potter bounce for bounce but the whole band are true performers and clearly love being up on stage while Potter is a real old school front man.


This is another of those tours that never was, so it’s the first time this four piece from Watford have had chance to play the songs from the band’s third album ‘I’d Rather Die Than Let You In’ live.

Although, as with many bands during lockdown, they have already moved on and showed off two brand new songs tonight. One of which is their collaboration with Kelsey Karter, who I missed earlier, called ‘I Don’t Like You, Okay’.

There is still plenty from their latest album, although some of which I find a little bit too plodding... by their standards unlike the explosiveness of their earlier stuff. That said two of the best moments tonight are slower (but older) songs - a sublime version of ‘Sycamore Tree’ and the always excellent ‘Piece By Piece’.

Then of course there's ‘Bonfire’, an awesome ‘Babe, Can I Call?’ and a closing 'She's Casual' with the first verse sung exclusively by the crowd. By the end both Potter and Dorney are shirtless to the delight of most of the girls in the crowd, for some reason.
The Hunna Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2021

Saturday 23 October 2021

Sea Power, The Venue, Derby

Tonight’s support band Pale Blue Eyes probably need to chill out a bit more. Perhaps wear their guitars a bit lower, the short guitar strap is always a bit of a red flag for me, and the drummer needs to take her coat off or something. They are undeniably pleasant and make a nice enough sound but I just find them a bit lacking that is apart from the outstanding use of the dry ice. Sorry. 

The band formerly known as British Sea Power play their first gigs in two years on a tour delayed from 2020 that I made sure I bought a ticket for to help support tonight’s venue through lockdown as well as contributing to the Save Our Venues campaign.


The band are never predictable and they certainly aren’t with tonight’s opening which is the long meandering (in a nice way) prog rock-ish instrumental Heavenly Waters that appeared as a b-side on the 2003 single for Carrion. From there on things are slightly more predictable with welcome airings for the likes of ‘The Lonely’ and ‘North Hanging Rock’ among others.

There is plenty from the new album, ‘Everything Was Forever’ due out in February 2022, in the form of the rocky Doppelgänger, the more sing-along Two Fingers, We Only Want To Make You Happy and Folly, their current single.


Along with the name change, they have dropped the ‘British’, apparently the bear has been retired, although the foliage strewn stage clearly hasn’t and nor has violinist Abi despite her absence tonight.

She is stuck sheep sitting on the remote croft on the Isle of Skye that she shares with Neil where they have had three new-borns this year. Probably the best excuse ever.


The encore features Waving Flags, their pro-immigration and open borders anthem, a song which would probably get the right wing press’ backs up (if they knew about it) as much as the name change did (they noticed that). It also explains why they did it, what with people getting the wrong idea about the politics of a band who are far from nationalistic.


After that and after a two hour set, in a bizarre ending, but then aren’t they always, Yan and Martin are in the crowd. Yan is crowd surfing and Martin climbing on the beams (again) amid an impromptu (not on the set list) The Spirit of St. Louis. I wonder if they have to stress test the beams beforehand.

Sunday 3 October 2021

The Slow Readers Club, Rock City, Nottingham

We have three bands this evening and a late finish (a rarity for Rock City) so I get to see all three with local mini-legends Eyre Llew opening proceedings at a relaxed 7.45pm. This Nottingham trio have been around for seven years but this is the first time (I think) that I have crossed paths with them, in what is their first gig since lockdown. They are also the first band I know to have chosen to sign a song in Korean. Allegedly that is, as I couldn't prove whether it was Korean or not and they are one of those bands where you struggle to make out the words anyway. As lead singer and guitarist Sam Heaton says, try writing a song in a language that isn’t your own. Not easy I'm sure but clearly he's up for a challenge.

They're ambient style is very niche which is no bad thing but it's also not really my thing. Something which can't be said for Sheffield's Sheafs.

The first thing I think is that they're impersonating the Sisters of Mercy. On track one anyway, not so much after that as front man Lawrence Feenstra apologises for the husky gothic vocals because his voice is going.

After that his voice does seem to improve and it becomes clear that they have many styles to their bow. However the pounding drums, throbbing bass and chunky guitars remain. It's so 'Indie' cliche but also so good. Then I do love a band that grabs their audience by the throat from the off. I think you can tell I’m impressed. It's not just the tunes though, there’s a good line in banter and stage presence too. 

The other thing is that they're not all from Sheffield either and two of them are from Nottingham. Do you need any more reasons to check them out? They're well good.

So to a band with a fairly similar style, if a little more polished after years of gigging. Manchester’s The Slow Readers Club originally intended this tour to be for their 4th album ‘The Joy Of The Return’ but of course it didn't happen. Instead they released a 5th album in lockdown ’91 Days in Isolation’ and now have a single ‘Tell No Lies’ out from what will be their 6th when they get around to releasing it.


‘The Joy Of The Return’ is a very appropriate phrase given the current situation where bands are clearing loving the joy of returning to the stage and being back in front of a live crowd again. Aaron Starkie and his band, always effervescent, are no exception.

Both new records are thoroughly plundered tonight along with many of back catalogue favourites and as always they delight in mixing the set up and not always playing the obvious.

The finale was fairly obvious though... but when it’s as good as ‘Block Out the Sun’, ‘Feet on Fire’, ‘I Saw a Ghost’, ‘On The TV’ and ‘Lunatic’ with a little break for the new single, who’s complaining? Exceptional as ever.

The Slow Readers Club Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK Tour 2021

Thursday 30 September 2021

The Subways + Art Brut, Rock City, Nottingham

Without an album in five years, although working on their fifth, in March 2020 The Subways started re-touring their debut album 'Young for Eternity' on its 15th anniversary. Then, like everyone else, they had to stop due to the pandemic. Now, eighteen months later, they are picking up where they left off and finishing off that tour.

Alongside them, also celebrating 15 years since their first album (well 16 now obviously) are old friends of mine Art Brut. I haven’t seen them for a while and I’m delighted to say they haven't changed one bit. Well Eddie Argos hasn't anyway or perhaps he’s just grown into his age. The band play themselves on with Guns N’ Roses 'Welcome To The Jungle' and proceed as if they are headlining. Which they probably think they are.

That debut album 'Bang Bang Rock & Roll' doesn't get the album in full treatment, and we instead get treated to a mix of all five of their albums, but they do open (of course) with 'Formed a Band' and then follow this with an updated version of 'My Little Brother'. It turns out his little brother, who 15 years ago had just discovered Rock N Roll, is now nearly 40 and a teacher e.g. not so out of control now. Cue updated and extended monologue that goes on almost forever.


As usual their show is part music, part stand-up comedy and part Jackanory. Delivered particularly excellently tonight. Can I take back what I said about them not having changed? They are usually pretty shambolic but tonight they are actually pretty slick once they get going. It’s probably the best performance I’ve seen them do. While the band, and particularly Argos, are clearly having a blast.

They play for almost a full hour, although 'My Little Brother' was most of that. As I said, they probably thought they were headlining.

Art Brut Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2021

I may appear biased (and I’m also a big Subways fan) but I fear the Subways are going to have some problem topping that and I’m right. Upgraded from the smaller Rescue Rooms last time, due to the pre-pandemic lure of the classic album I suppose, it’s not that busy. On the upside though that leaves plenty of room for everyone to get lively, which is made good use of.


‘Young for Eternity' is delivered in full and in order. The music is as good as ever, it’s lively, it is delivered enthusiastically by the band and received just as enthusiastically by the crowd while Billy Lunn delivers some interesting stories of his own but... it all still seemed a bit flat.

Perhaps that’s what happens when what was going to be a brief look back at your debut album takes over 18 months to complete. On top of that Lunn and Charlotte Cooper are now officially without drummer Josh Morgan, Billy's brother, who has struggled with the touring for some years and has now left the band. His place tonight is filled by the Ramona's Camille Phillips.

With the classic album delivered the band play just five more on top from their other albums, which seemed a bit stingy. This included a track from their upcoming album, their new single 'Fight'. I think they desperately need that new album.

Then they finish by playing 'Rock & Roll Queen' for a second time. I'm not sure we needed it twice given the decent back catalogue they've got but Billy thought we did. They are off stage after only 75 minutes. Perhaps they also thought Art Brut here headlining?

The Subways Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2021

Monday 13 September 2021

The Vaccines, NTSU The Level, Nottingham

Tonight's it's another of those 'free' gig when you by a band's new CD courtesy of Rough Trade who normally host these things upstairs at their shop. Clearly hosting the lively Vaccines crowd there wasn't deemed a good idea. Which is why I am at Nottingham Trent Students Union aka The Level for the first time since 2006 (The Automatic since you ask) and only the second time since 1995 (Belly since you ask). It has had not so much a refit as a rebuild since then e.g. it is brand new building.

The gig itself space is impressive, quite long and thin with a long stage and a good sound system. That the band with probably the most googled name on the planet, well what do you expect in a pandemic, is my second gig back after venues reopened and my first to be rammed full is perhaps fitting.

There is no support band (unless they were on really really early?) which sees everyone simply milling around for a considerable amount of time before the band come on at 9pm. 
They open with Wanderlust from that new CD 'Back to Love City' and all hell breaks loose which is quite an achievement for a new song that not everyone will know but then, this is probably so many folks first gig back after a long time denied them. Clearly lost time needs to be made up for.

The opener is is quickly followed by the much more widely known favourites, 'I Can't Quit' and 'I Always Knew'. Cue even greater mayhem. They then intersperse material from the new album will plenty of other favourites along the way. As is the way these days multiple tracks from the new record have been trailed ahead of its release as 'singles' and tracks such the likes of 'Headphones Baby' and 'Jump Off the Top' are already well known by a lot of the crowd.
As usual they round things up in around an hour and that includes returning for an encore of 'Wreckin Bar' and 'All in White'.

They are excellent as always. It's good to have them and music back.

The Vaccines Setlist The Level, Nottingham, England 2021

Friday 13 August 2021

China Crisis, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Its been seventeen months since I was waiting to hear whether Frank Turner’s gig at Rock City on 21st March 2020 was going to go ahead. It didn’t and was cancelled a few days before. Meaning I haven’t been to a gig since December 2019 which was We Are Scientists in Leicester. It’s been a long old wait and it’s a bit emotional when old stagers China Crises take the stage at a busy but not full Rescue Rooms to huge applause. It’s not really clear who’s applauding who for being here, probably a large dose of both.

They open with the gorgeous ‘Arizona Sky’ from their seriously underrated fourth album ‘What Price Paradise’, released a mere 35 years ago but probably filed under their ‘newer’ stuff. The majority of the set is 'older', as they constantly refer to when they were 17, with a set that seems to roughly divide into two sections, ‘what they want to play’ and ‘the hits’. 

What they want to play seems to be no less than six tracks off their debut album ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’ from 1982, I’m guessing that they wrote when they were 17, making it easily the most pulled from album tonight and way ahead of their more famous records.


There’s room also for a newbie ‘Fool’, a youngster aged just six and a recent treat from their 2015 ‘Autumn in the Neighbourhood’ album which was their first new recording in 21 years and a B-side ‘It's Never Too Late’ which only appeared on the limited edition 12" of ‘Black Man Ray’. Which appears itself later in the brief ‘hits’ section. Sadly they didn’t have too many of such things.

Throughout Gary banters about other eighties bands, some of which may have gone on to world domination to his slight annoyance, but none of which he stresses is to be repeated on Twitter ever.


The end of the set seems to come several times but they never leave the stage. Protesting that the dressing rooms are too far and they’re up against a 10pm curfew anyway so that the Rescue Rooms can let the youngsters in.

They finally finish for good with ‘Here Comes a Raincloud’ before inviting everyone down to the oldest pub in England later. Although, as there’s some dispute about this, I’m not sure if they mean Ye Olde Trip or Ye Olde Salutation. Some would even say it’s Ye Olde Bell. So I don’t join them but I do hear they did indulge in a bit of Karaoke in the Sally. I’ll catch them next time around.

China Crisis Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2021