30 November 2004: Rachel Stamp – The Victoria Inn, Derby, England, UK

The last time I saw Rachel Stamp was at Bradford Rios a while back now so I was looking forward to seeing them a little nearer home and in one of my favourite small venues. The Vic in Derby is a really friendly venue, there’s something about having your hand stamped with an undecipherable smudge that makes you feel like it’s a “proper” gig. It was good to find that the venue was pretty busy, the crowd at Bradford was a bit disappointing, and on arrival I made straight for the merchandise stand to get my copy of the new single “Honey/Queen of the Universe”. Having made said purchase it was off to the bar for a beer and to get ready for the support, which was tonight, provide by Ariel-X.

A right motley looking crew took to the stage and began a set which consisted of big riffs and some really well worked tracks. Warning if you go to see these guys they are loud and I mean really LOUD!!!! I’ve been very impressed by some of the support acts I’ve had the fortune (and the foresight to turn up to the venue in time) to see just recently and Ariel-x were another to add to the list and another CD to add to the collection. If you like it loud then this could be the band for you.

I have been a keen follower of Rachel Stamp for quite a few years now; they are one of the few bands that I can say I have almost there entire back catalogue (all apart from a couple of the very early singles) and I always try to catch at least one gig on every tour. Since the departure of long term drummer Robin Guy it seems that the Stamp have decided to remain a three piece and just use session drummers, this is OK but Robin was an exceptionally good drummer and all-round funny man that you do notice the difference since he left (if anybody knows what he’s up to know please e-mail the webmaster.) That said they are still producing some really good music, they performed the tracks from the new single and they certainly live up to the quality of the previous releases. Apart from the new single the set was made up of some of the best loved tracks the Stamp have to offer, “Black Cherry”, “Witches of Aneglholm”, “Superstars of Heartache”, “I Wanna Be Your Doll” to name but a few. This coupled with the Wills crashing guitar solos, sultry keyboards from Sheena Dax and of course the pouting Mr Ryder-Prangly all add up to that unique experience which is Rachel Stamp.


30 November 2004: ariel-x – The Victoria Inn, Derby, England, UK

Well, this was unexpected. For two reasons.

Reason number one was that I made it to the venue in time to see the support band.

Reason number two was that they were well worth catching.

The venue was tiny, the backroom of a pub, but fairly full and I wasn’t expecting much when ariel-x took to the stage. I was quite impressed (and it takes a lot).

ariel-x are made up of four guys whose presence filled the stage. Ben, the vocalist (who manned the merchandise stall while Rachel Stamp were on), commanded the stage, rocking out with the other members of the band during the instrumental bits.

The tracks were tidy and well played. They started with a powerful number which sent shivers down the spine and made your feet move, and continued in the same manner with “Chemical Mind” which slowed things down slightly and then built ever louder and (seemingly) faster

This was followed by “With You”, with the first lyric being “Are you paying attention, are you getting bored?”.

There was no chance of that as Ben introduced “Mute” (the new single, out now on noise underground records), a huge swipe at the pop idol and X Factor shows. “Mute” starts slowly and then knocks you backwards, much like being hit unexpectedly by a speeding freight train.

“You’ve got nothing to say, nothing to say, nothing to say to me so therefore, I can’t hear you”.

Next it was “A Way Out”, followed by “Vow” and “This is not Love”, but by this time I had been completely blown away. The songs were phenomenal, the volume was phenomenal and this member of the crowd was converted.

They only played half an hour, but it was an excellent half an hour and the crowd gave them the support they deserved. I found myself disappointed when they left the stage asking people to come and chat to them afterwards and pick up a free poster.

I went and chatted and couldn’t hear much. My ears were still ringing two days later, when I bought the album “BI-POLAR”, which lived up to expectations.

The loudest gig I’d been to for ages.

Give them some airplay! ariel-x deserve it.

23 November 2004: Levellers – Queens Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, England, UK

23 November 2004: Levellers - Queens Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, England, UK

The Queen’s Theatre in Stoke appears to be the only place in Stoke-on-Trent that isn’t sign posted by a large brown sign. Consequently and regrettably, I missed much of Dan Donnelly’s set and only arrived in time to hear part of the second to last song and all of his final number, which was a song about how he “Sounds like David Gray”. Good stuff.

The venue itself was all seating (with the exception of a small space right at the front), with the downstairs, which had originally been converted to standing space, being taken up by a large section of temporary seating.

I got a seat on the second row with a great view of the stage and I didn’t have to wait long for the Levellers to arrive on stage. As soon as the band appeared there was a rush from the seats to get to the standing space at the front.

Before they started someone asked if they’d had a nice curry and this started off the banter for the evening.

The Levellers have been busy since the summer festival season finished and the show started with one of two new tracks that the band played tonight. The first track was instantly likeable and at the end Mark asked where his words were in case he couldn’t remember them. Someone pointed out that he had remembered them and Mark responded by saying that we wouldn’t know, because it was the first time the song had been played.

As this was an acoustic set, the show was split into two halves. The first half started at about 20:15 and finished at 21:15 and the second half started at about 21:30 and the show finished at about 22:40.

The first half of the set seemed to speed past and after playing “Is this Art”, “Another Man’s Cause”, “Julie”, a solo “When Love Runs Out Of Time” from Simon and what seemed like a slowed down “The Last Days of Winter”, plus others, the band left the stage.

I missed the first song after the break because I was watching an argument between the security staff and some people with drinks over whether they could take the drinks into the venue. The gap to get into the downstairs seating area of the venue was quite narrow and you had to walk past the security staff to see the show. But the bar was outside of the venue at the back, so to get a drink you had to leave stage front. After much pushing and shoving the people were eventually persuaded to drink their drinks very quickly and were then allowed back into the venue.

This was a feature of the night. During the first half Mark had spotted someone trying to pinch his beer and challenged them that if they could reach it, then they could have it. They could reach it and Mark’s pint disappeared. Mark also asked of the audience, “Can you really not drink or smoke in here?” and we all shouted “No” and he responded with “I wondered why there was no one here”. To be fair, the venue did look quite empty, but in my opinion this was because a lot of the people who would have been in the seats were standing at the front, in the first 5 yards of space, giving the venue an overall impression of emptiness. This culminated in Jon fetching a number of pints of beer from the back of the stage and dishing them out to the audience. Shame he didn’t get us all one.

Mark eventually gave in to having a cigarette, saying “Oh, f**k it, I’m gonna have a fag”, as apparently there was a no smoking policy on stage as well.

The second half was made up of “Four winds”, “Beautiful Day”, an excellent “Far from home”, “Not in my Name” (which seemed to have been rearranged slightly from the last time I heard it), “Carry Me” and “Burford Stomp”.

There was also another great new song in there as well, that contained a line that sounded like “Look not for the last man”. After finishing this song Mark said “That’s the fastest we’ve ever played that”.

The encore started with an appearance from what I assume was Boaksey, but I didn’t recognise him without his makeup on, which launched us into “One Way”, “Dirty Davey” and “Riverflow”, before the band left the stage again.

After a lot of shouting and stamping of feet, the Levellers reappeared, and Mark reminded us that there was a CD of the show for sale straight after from DiscLive Europe. This is the first time that this service has been offered in the UK and allows you to take a copy of the show home with you.

“Just the One” was what I assumed to be the final track, but I was genuinely surprised when they stayed for another.

This final song made my night as it’s been years since I have seen them play it. “What you know” went down a storm and was made all the more special by the fact that the Levellers seemed to be relearning how to play it as they went along. Mark pointing and waving at Jeremy and Charlie throughout the song and there seemed to be a couple of cock-ups, but it was so good to hear the song live again that no one seemed to notice. It sounded brilliant and it was fantastic to hear it again.

Great gig. And I’ve never seen a venue empty so slowly. Everyone seemed to be queuing to buy a copy of the show. I was glad I’d pre-ordered my copy.

06 November 2004: T23 and The Psychedelic Circus – Borderline, London, England, UK

‘T23 and The Psychedelic Circus’ rocked a packed Borderline club in London on Saturday November 6th. Their unique mix of cutting edge beats, psychedelic sounds and rock guitars sent a cool London Warholesque audience beyond the bizarre until they couldn’t help jumping up and down and screaming for more.

This was the launch of their debut album, ‘When the Going Gets Weird’ which is currently being sold on ebay… a cunning way of reaching a global fan base without the backing of large record companies.

This art/music collective is the multi cultured, multi coloured, multi dimensional future. The three core members create a whirlwind of audio/visual entertainment from within the eye of the storm while people from all corners of the Earth brought their talents to the stage… an Australian didgeridoo player booms beneath the beats and the Amazonian dread locked percussionist sports a sweating bodyful of tribal tattoos… on one track an Italian opera singer lifts us to an ethereal plane as the industrial beats and grinding guitars play on.

The multilingual on stage DJ announces, over ambient Moog sounds, the next song in English, French and German and rainbow warrior belly dancer bounds into centre stage. I love this band… Entertaining to the end, as a toy robot is powered up and makes his way into the audience amidst a backdrop of bubbles, lights and lava lamps that made me wonder if somebody hadn’t spiked my drink… but of course I had just tasted my first dose of T23 and the Psychedelic Circus and I’m not sure life will ever be the same again.