29 April 2007: Levellers – Winding Wheel, Chesterfield, England, UK

29 April 2007: Levellers - Winding Wheel, Chesterfield, England, UK

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s a late spring this year. You can tell by the way my first Levellers gig of the year is at the end of April. Apparently these are the only dates, apart from some festival appearances in the summer. God knows how I’m going to tell when it’s Christmas as the Levellers festive gigs now represent the official start of the celebrations to a lot of people.

After meticulous planning to ensure that I did not miss the 3 Daft Monkeys support show for the third time in as many shows, I arrived to hear the final 30 seconds of their last number. Realisation slowly dawned that this was a Sunday night and everything was earlier than normal or I had perhaps forgotten to put the clocks forward.

The venue was packed and it was an effort to fight your way towards a decent position. I found myself to the right as you looked at the stage; slightly forward of the mixing desk, surrounded by a fair few eager-looking faces.

At almost exactly 9 o’clock the Levellers appeared on the stage and after a few hellos went straight into “100 Years Of Solitude”. The venue went wild with almost everybody dancing.

And we danced straight into songs two and three before taking a breather. The Levellers were in excellent form, seemingly even more energetic than normal. As the gig moved on more and more people pushed to the front, as Jeremy bounced up and down on the drum riser and all over the stage. Even Jon got in on the act, at one point leaping off the drum riser towards the edge of the stage, still tearing the tune out of his fiddle.

The set list rocked and was a mixture of old and new favourites with a couple of surprises.

We were treated to “Last Man Alive”, the crowd went wild for “What A Beautiful Day” (with Mark swapping guitar mid song due to a broken string), “Carry Me”, “Hope Street” and “Men-An-Tol”, amongst others.

Particularly memorable to me tonight were “Forgotten Ground” and “Burford Stomp” which seemed to take on lives of their own and be filled with more energy and emotion than usual.

Mark walked onto the stage, after doing a spot of drumming during “The Boatman”, with a lighted cigarette and said “Put your hand up who smokes”. About 10% of the audience raised their arms to which Mark responded with “What are we going to do?” referring to the smoking ban that comes into force on 1 July in England. Adding “It’s no longer cool or trendy (to smoke), but it still tastes bloody good”, before dropping the butt to the floor and launching into “One Way”.

The didgeridoo and Boaksey appeared who manically bounced around the stage, nearly knocking Jon and Simon over in the process. In fact there were a number of near misses tonight. This being not your usual nanny-hand-holding type venue there were no “Stop Enjoying Yourself” signs up, with not a bouncer in sight inside the venue, and consequently the mosh pit was a melee of bodies smashing into each other for most of the evening. Simon in particular looked very startled during his solo rendition of “When Love Runs Out of Time” when somebody’s legs unexpectedly went past his face. There were a number of upside-down people heading for the band at various times and even several attempts at pyramid-building. Good to see people enjoying themselves.

And everybody around where I was standing was having a great time, with the exception of a couple who looked like they were attending a wake. This was explained on the way out when I noticed the chap was wearing a Funeral for a Friend T-shirt.

Simon appeared for his solo spot and introduced us to a new guitar. He sarcastically thanked the person who stole his old one and then went on to say that the new instrument was much better. It sounded it as well on “When Love Runs Out of Time”.

There were a couple of equipment breakdowns during the show, but it was so hot that they deserved the brief rest. At one point Jeremy was trying to contend with a heavy bass riff, bouncing up and down, backing vocals, escaping dreadlocks and a towel all at the same time. It was quite a sight.

I’m not sure when they played “Come On” but I was ecstatic. Why this single got nowhere in the charts will never cease to amaze me.

“Burford Stomp” powered us into the break prior to the encore and then the band reappeared for a slower “Another Man’s Cause”, before speeding it up again for “The Riverflow”.

Mark introduced the next song as “A ballad dedicated to my best mate”, during which Jon showed off his fiddle playing skills in “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. Amazing stuff!

Mark said that as this was the last gig he needed some extra crowd participation and wanted us all to clap along. All I could think was “last gig? What? Last gig ever?”, before realising that he just meant the last gig of this mini-tour.

Most of the crowd thought that was it and started drifting towards the exit but we were rewarded for staying with the reappearance of the Levellers, together with 3 Daft Monkeys, for a final song.

“What You Know”, as ever, blew everyone away. I swear they added an even faster bit at the end.

After almost five months without a Levellers gig this gig was the best one I had been to for quite some time. I left the venue with my ears, head, body and soul buzzing.

How I am going to make it through to 2008 without seeing them again I do not know. Where’s that list of festival dates again?

Setlist; 100 Years Of Solitude / Fifteen Years / Last Man Alive / Hope Street / What A Beautiful Day / The Boatman / One Way / When Love Runs Out Of Time (Simon Solo) / Men-An-Tol / The Road / Come On / Burford Stomp / Forgotten Ground / Carry me / The Game / The Riverflow / [Break] / Another Man’s Cause / Liberty Song / Devil Went Down To Georgia / [Break] / What You Know

27 April 2007: Levellers – Warwick Arts Centre, Warwick, England, UK

It’s not the first time that I have ventured to the Warwick Arts Centre at Warwick University to see the Levellers once again sell out this fine venue.

The supporting act a 3 piece fun folk band from Cornwall, the 3 Daft Monkeys who I’ve seen support the Levellers before. They entertained us with their very addictive upbeat musical arrangement including passionate and vibrant fiddle playing. They warmed up for the Levs with melodies from past & present albums including Hubbadillia, Social Vertigo, Astral Eyes, Maximillian, and Faces. Be sure to check them out at a festival near you soon, well worth a look see!

After a short 15 minute interval, the lights dimmed to a Dolby surround sound thunder intro as The Levellers grace the stage and launch straight into a classic pogo favourite 100 years of Solitude. The Levs never fail to please their fans, playing songs from nearly all of their 7 studio albums, 5 of which are due to be re-released and re-mastered in June by WarnerBros/Rhino Label

Before What A Beautiful Day starts, Mark mentioned that he sung it that same afternoon on BBC Coventry Radio and said that he wanted to sing it properly this evening (actually I thought his version on the radio that afternoon was very warming indeed ). The crowd once again went bonkers and the mosh pit started getting pretty rowdy as the crowd merged forward. A couple of scuffles broke out, but by the end of the song, peace and harmony returned to the fun loving crowd. The next song was The Boatman, which featured Mark Chadwick on drums and Charlie taking Mark’s place at the front with his Timbali around his neck marching around the stage with Jez and Jon.. I distinctively remember seeing this part of the show for the first time in 1992 downstairs in the Atrium at Birmingham NEC. Happy Days!

As they did then , the same happens tonight, The hall darkens and the neon coloured Stevie Boakes warms up his didgeridoo to One Way as he emerges from the wings. Boaksey parades around the front of the stage virtually hanging over the front and pointing at the crowd sending everyone into a wild frenzy with fore fingers aloft as the chorus builds.

Steve continues to play his self made amazing didge for the next song Sell Out during which Jon the fiddler holds his fiddle bow over his head as if it was an Excalibur. After the classic One Way Anthem, Simon Friend stands alone poised on the stage for his solo ballads.

Before playing Men-An-Tol, Simon announced embarrassingly “Sorry, but Steve Boakes has just pinched my bum!!”. Simon continues & performs another great solo, an acoustic version of The Road. Mark then joins him on the stage lighting a cigarette and mentions sarcastically that July was on its way..

One of my favourites, and a real crowd-pleaser was Burford Stomp from the Freeborn John Album CD/DVD which will be released on 19 of May at Levellers Day in Burford, Oxfordshire.

The Warwick gig is in full swing with faves Forgotten Ground, Carry Me, The Game & Riverflow ending the first section of the gig. After much cheering, stomping, and clapping, the hard-hitting Another Man’s Cause opened the first encore, which was swiftly followed by Liberty Song, and Devil Went Down to Georgia.

There was another surprising encore What You Know, featuring the supporting act 3 Daft Monkeys, with Athena doing a fiddle off with Jon Sevink and Tim playing flute and dancing about with Jez. This was great, the song seemed to go on for about 10 minutes (not long enough in my opinion), and the whole audience were dancing and singing, as fast as the 2 bands were.

This was truly a great energy-filled finale to the show which left the crowd exhausted but with a will for more.

Setlist; 100 years of solitude / Fifteen years / Last man alive / Hope Street / What A Beautiful day / The Boatman / One way / Sell Out / Men an tol / The road / Come on / Burford stomp / Forgotten ground / Carry me / The game / The Riverflow / (Break) / Another man’s cause / Liberty song / Devil went down to Georgia / (Break) / What you know

© Review & Photography by: Roy & Debbie Sandbrook

13 April 2007: The Koolaid Electric Company – Zaks Club, New Queen Vic, Milton Keynes, England, UK

Friday 13th. Its late and so far the nights gone without a hitch. Good news, if only because next up at the recently re-opened Zaks Club in Milton Keynes is the 8 piece psychedelic west coast rock collective ‘The Koolaid Electric Company’. Hailing from the back end of nowhere that is Leighton Buzzard, home of mighty Baron Knights of coarse, The Koolaid are creating quite a stir in the underground but burgeoning UK psychedelic rock scene. Close friends with the infamous and enigmatic. Anton of The BJM, the BRMC, Ausies The Morning After Girls and more site The Koolaid as the next big thing.

Something’s about to occur. The venue’s seen fit to turn off every light in the house except for the lowest of red stage lights. Whoops and cheers of excitement and unexplained cheers for ‘Sausage’ from the expectant Milton Keynes crowd remind me of days of old at regional cinemas just before the main feature.

In the dark, figures can barely be seen joining the stage. Then, and only when instructed by the tall imposing figure of front man Sam Barret (stage right) the collective strike.

4 guitars, bass, drums, keys and a tambourine man dressed in the obligatory black burst into life. Almost a wall of sound but one that can be enjoyed not endured. Every part complementing the other. Overlapping.

These songs are beautifully simple but yet full of hooks, haunting vocals and soaring guitars the entire Soundscape conducted by the guitar wielding 6ft 6 front man. The man on tambourine and maracas twirling like a whirling dervish. 3rd and 4tthguitars keeping a low profile in the dark.

When Mr Barrets not overseeing the group he’s hunched down over the mic delivering his sermon or fiercely wielding his axe, bending strings like his life depended on it.

Reminiscent of Ride and The Jesus And Mary Chain. However we are breaking new ground here. This is more intense. Serious. They really mean this. Maybe it’s the low red lights silhouetting the ensemble but this almost a religious experience. A psychedelic U2? I dunno, but Its clear to me that the stories I’ve been hearing are true. I’m a convert. This might just be the band we’ve all been waiting for. Part of a new emerging UK scene. Inspiring and prolific. They have the songs, the image and the pedigree. Look out for the first single being mixed as I type. All hail the kings of UK Psychedelic Rock. The Koolaid Electric Company.

© Simon Turner – SJT Music