30 June 2005: Ginger – Civic Centre, Wolverhampton, England, UK

30 June 2005: Ginger - Civic Centre, Wolverhampton, England, UK

Despite being in Wolverhampton the Civic Centre appears to be a decent venue. The main hall is a good size with a balcony over-head and the smaller hall where this gig took place, the Civic Bar, is just about the perfect size for a Ginger gig. This room also has a bar running the length of it but for some reason it wasn’t open so everyone had to traipse outside to the chronically under-staffed bar in the corridor instead.

The support band, Jackdaw-4, consisted of one-time Wildheart, Willie Dowling, and John Steele. Bearing in mind that I was sober the whole night I can’t remember much about their set which is never a good sign. The songs were alright and played well enough but they never really grabbed my attention. Having said that, I would still be interested in seeing the full line-up doing a proper electric set.

Soon afterwards it was time for the main event. Ginger ambled onstage sporting a cowboy hat over his dread-locks ( – turning American, Ginger?) with Hot Steve to accompany him on guitar, but sadly without Jon Poole on bass – maybe due to fallout from the recent Wildhearts split? They opened with ‘There’s Only One Hell’ which, as one my favourites, was a great start. After this Ginger played a couple of new songs, ‘The Man Who Cheated Death’ and ‘Just A Problem’ I think, which both sounded an improvement on some of his earlier solo stuff in that they were more catchy and not as….. erm – how can I put this nicely? – ordinary. The usual banter between Ginger and the crowd was being thrown back and forth between songs as usual and it’s a constant reminder of just what a great front-man Ginger is.

Next up was ‘One Love, One Life, One Girl’ followed by another new song about every man’s favourite subject, yes – female bisexuality, called ‘Paramour’ which also sounded great with customary witty lyrics. The Wildhearts classic ‘29 x the Pain’ made an unusually early appearance at this point and then Givee (?) took the stage to sing ‘Unlucky In Love’, a song that has to be heard live to be fully appreciated.

Much to my surprise Ginger then temporarily turned into a covers band by playing ‘Always On My Mind’ by Willie Nelson/Elvis/Pet Shop Boys/take your pick, ‘In My Life’ and ‘Nowhere Man’ by The Beatles, ‘Days’ by The Kinks, ‘Pulling Mussels (from a shell)’ by Squeeze, and also a tribute to Brian Wilson. For most of these songs the boys from Jackdaw-4 joined Ginger and Steve on stage to add their contributions.

Now I could be mistaken but I got the distinct impression that several of these songs weren’t planned because Steve either sat on his stool not playing a note because he didn’t know the song or trying to pick it up as he went along by watching the others. While it’s nice to see some improvisation and hear a few great old tracks, I did feel sorry for Steve at seemingly being put in the position of a ‘spare part’

Towards the end, which was 10.30pm by the way, the four of them returned to Wildhearts-country with ‘Geordie In Wonderland’ and ‘Nita Nitro’ before closing with the Silverginger-5 number, ‘Monkey Zoo’. Not really a belter to finish with but there you go.

After leaving the show my over-whelming impression was that Ginger had started to wean me off The Wildhearts by playing more songs by himself and other bands. After yet another band-split I can fully understand Ginger wanting to distance himself from that band and forge an identity as a solo artist once again. I wish him all the luck in the world but as a massive Wildhearts fan I’m going to find it very hard not to be slightly disappointed when he doesn’t play many of the old classics, as he hadn’t done tonight.

Either way, I’ll try to move on like Ginger is doing and hope that his new album is a cracker. More importantly, though, at the end of the night after one of his shows you always know that you’ve heard some quality music from a quality bloke which makes it all worthwhile, regardless of a missing classic or two.

@Jimbob247247

22 June 2005: Octavia Sperati – Junktion 7, Nottingham, England, UK

22 June 2005: Octavia Sperati - Junktion 7, Nottingham, England, UK

On a boiling hot day, the day after the summer solstice, I headed off to see Octavia [Sperati] whose new album “Winter Enclosure” has been pounding my eardrums since its release at the end of May 2005.

When I arrived the upstairs part of the venue had not yet opened so I sat in Bar 7 and sweltered (with my beer) along with everyone else.

It was soon announced that the upstairs had now opened and that the first band would be on “very soon”, but there was not much movement towards the door as the thought of standing in the heat upstairs was putting people off.

After about 20 minutes of the first band (Liquid Sky), I decided to brave the heat and ventured up the stairs. As I opened the door to the venue I was greeted by a wave of ice cool air. Air conditioning!

I was quite impressed with Liquid Sky and even ambled towards the merchandise desk at one point, but didn’t buy anything. The band was a 6 piece, I think, with a female vocal and the songs went down very well with the assembled crowd.

Liquid Sky were followed by Illuminatus, a local band with a strong following in the area (especially considering the number of their T-shirts attending tonight). They were loud, aggressive and forced you to pay attention. I particularly liked the keyboard sound, but overall I was left a little disappointed and preferred Liquid Sky’s set.

I think Illuminatus finished with “Wargasm”, which went down well with the crowd.

There was just enough time for a beer buying break and then I took my place near the front to watch Octavia set their kit up.

I’d been looking forward to this gig for sometime. After being impressed by a couple of tracks on a sampler and the bands Website and after buying the CD, I didn’t think that there would ever be a chance to see the band live, as they’d have to come from Norway. But then the dates were announced and I rushed off to buy my ticket (£5 (£6 on the door) was a bargain for this nights entertainment).

Silje & Gyri

Octavia sound like evanescence, according to my mate. Their record company describes them as a “Norwegian all-female band whose domain is the world of heavy, Gloom metal.” And I’d describe them as incomparable. I know they are a metal band from Bergen, Norway, but I hope that they don’t just get lumped into that scene and ignored, as they deserve far wider recognition.

Bodil, Silje & Gyri

After setting up their gear, the band stood around for a bit looking a little uncomfortable, but as soon as they started their first track “Future Is” they looked relaxed confident and put on an excellent show.

Bodil, Sije & Gyri

The band lined up left to right (with Kikken, the only male, on drums at the back), Bodil on guitar, Trine on bass, Silje on vocals, Gyri on guitar and Tone on keyboards and backing vocals, and proceeded to play the majority of the “Winter Enclosure” album, including “Wasted On The Living”, “Lifelines Of Depths”, “Soundless”, “Hunting Eye” and they definitely finished with “Winter Enclosure”.

Bodil, Silje & Gyri

I again wandered over to the merchandise stall, but discovered I only had just enough dosh for the taxi home.

Interestingly, watching the “Lifelines Of Depths” video, which is apparently getting some good rotation at the moment, the next day, I spotted the girl on the merchandise stall (and refresher of Silje’s pint glass) playing the drums.

Silje & Gyri

Octavia have just been announced as support for the December 2005 Cradle Of Filth tour. If you missed them this time, see if you can catch them on those dates.

Go and buy the album. You’ll not be disappointed.

17 June 2005: Mark Chadwick + Rev Hammer – Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England, UK

17 June 2005: Mark Chadwick + Rev Hammer - Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England, UK

It was a glorious summers evening when I arrived at De Montfort Hall to be greeted by the sounds of Eliza Carthy and the Ratcatchers emerging from the indoor main stage at about 8:00.

I collected my armband and headed off to explore the outside area with a drink in one hand and a programme in the other. There were loads of stalls in the outside area, selling food and the usual festival clothes, plus one selling rather tempting hats.

The real ale marquee was well placed next to the Marquee stage where Mark and Rev were playing and I settled down in the Marquee to await the band.

Mark and Rev arrived, guitars in hand, with their summery outfits topped off with splendid Cowboy hats and as they vanished back stage to prepare the seated (on the grass) crowd was joined by plenty of others congregating at the back.

The compere appeared and announced the next act to the expectant crowd as Abbott and Costello and Mark and Rev appeared and began to argue about which one was which. They went on later to compare themselves to a number of other duos such as Morcambe and Wise (“This is why Morcambe and Wise never used guitars” from Rev).

As they appeared on stage the crowd stood up, only to be told by Rev to “Sit down and relax, this is a folk gig you know”. It was good that everyone sat down and chilled as the view of Mark and Rev seated left to right on the stage would have been un-seeable to anybody past the first row had everyone stood up. For some reason there was a spare seat, all set up with Microphone to the right of Mark. Mark later explained that Jon Sevink (the Levellers extraordinary fiddler and Drunk in Public percussionist) had been expected but according to Mark, “wouldn’t get out of bed for less than £20.00”.

After a bit of problem with the sound levels we were off (Gary the sound man sorted it out after receiving some light hearted abuse from Rev and the crowd). We were treated to (amongst others) “Punch Drunk” and “Ole Welsh Soul” from Rev’s debut album “Industrial Sound and Magic” and “Galahad” from the Levellers “Wild As Angels EP”, together with a storming version of “Julie” and “What A Beautiful Day”.

Mark had trouble with his guitar jack for the majority of the early songs and it all really fell apart during “What A Beautiful Day” as we were asked to sing along to the chorus several times while guitar leads were swapped and re-swapped. It made the song really, with Mark making the verses really slow and attempting to speed it up into a real stomper for the chorus and then being dealt a bad hand by his guitar lead. They both apologised, but there really wasn’t any need.

Mark commented that they were drinking “only water”, and Rev announced that Mark might be, but he was on the Brandy. Medicinal apparently as at times Rev struggled with his vocals in the humid atmosphere of the tent. Mark, despite Rev’s difficulties, still managed to virtually chain smoke his way through the gig.

Mark was leant another guitar by some kind soul and after another couple of numbers, including “One Way” and a haunting version of “Confess” from the Levellers excellent new album “Truth and Lies”, which sounded fantastic with just guitar and vocals, it was announced that Mark and Rev would be joined by an extra special guest.

When the extra special guest arrived, he was announced by Rev as, and then the amplifiers let out a loud noise and I failed to catch who they were. This was a shame because it turned out to be a fiddle player who I got the impression, perhaps wrongly, had been dragged out from his night in front of the telly to play at the last minute. It doesn’t matter really because I cannot praise him enough. The next song was “Together All The Way” which would have been almost impossible without the fiddle. Mark helped him through it, counting him in at all the right places. The track was much slower than normal but the crowds’ appreciation afterwards was immense. They got a standing ovation from everyone, including those sat on the floor.

The fiddler made the last few numbers and the gig really got going with Rev’s “Burford Stomp”. Rev then encouraged everyone to stand for the last number “Down By The River ‘O’”, which went down a storm with the crowd dancing about as if it were there only chance all night.

They left the stage to staggering applause and came back for another quick rendition of “Down By The River ‘O’”, and then left, thanking us as they went, with Rev apologising for the sound problems and thanking us for our patience. He really didn’t need to as everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

I left the marquee and, after a quick last look round some of the stalls, I headed back to the car for the journey home. Everyone else headed to the main stage to catch the end of Eddi Reader’s set, but I didn’t want to spoil the memories of a great gig, in a great little tent, in Leicester.