This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling
will be updated daily - except after nights of excess.
Monday 11th August
Due to a late night party in Noel and Mark’s room, my Sunday at the Cambridge Rock Festival began a little later than intentioned, so much so that breakfast consisted of a plate of Chinese food purloined at a nearby shopping mall. I was nibbling on pancake rolls for the rest of the day – lovely!
The day was to feature a proggier-based spectrum of bands than Saturday. Sadly, Credo had been and gone by the time our entourage returned to the site. Next up on the Main Stage, the female-fronted symphonic-metal of WINTER IN EDEN hit the spot. The band have received the approval of Threshold/Headspace frontman Damian Wilson, who guests on the new album, ‘Court Of Conscience’, which is produced by Within Temptation’s Ruud Jolie. They sounded great but it was about this time that my hangover really kicked in so I sought some air, listening to the set’s conclusion from outside the tent. The resumption of thunderstorms had been threatened, and it was with a sense of awe at nature’s power and beauty that I sat, nursing a pint of scrumpy, as some of the darkest thunderclouds I’ve ever seen rolled ominously towards us. When she hit… wow, Hurricane Bertha (as she had been named) was truly impressive to behold.
As I wasn’t reviewing the event for any of the magazines that employ me, it was time to get down to some serious drinking. CLOUD ATLAS, a band with strong connections to Mostly Autumn (guitarist Stu Carver was an early member of that band, and Heidi Widdop had sung with spin-off group Breath Space) acquitted themselves well, performing tunes from a sedate yet very creditable debut album titled ‘Beyond The Vale’, as did MR SO & SO, whose combination of male and female vocals (courtesy of Shaun McGowan and Charlotte Evans) was at times bewitching.
MOSTLY AUTUMN have almost become to house band here at the CRF. I’ve been a little dismissive of them in the past but no bones about it, I rate the new album, ‘Dressed In Voices’, as their best work yet. Olivia Sparnenn (pictured) has stepped into the role of fronting the group with a mix ice queen calm and pop star looks. Her drama-fuelled delivery of the haunting ‘Questioning Eyes’ was little short of superb – yet another highlight of a weekend rammed with quality.
A little frustratingly, the sets of the Main Stage’s special guest, JØRN LANDE and ROADHOUSE overlapped. We had planned to watch as much as possible of Lande’s set and head over to the Rotary Rocks Blues Stage to catch the beginning of Roadhouse. Alas, Jørn was late arriving onstage – something to do with demanding a full-sized mirror for his dressing room, I was told by another of the groups on the bill – so we cut our losses and made sure of grabbing some more drinks in time for what turned out to be a superb set display from Roadhouse (not to be confused with the short-lived act formed by Pete Willis on his expulsion from Def Leppard). No disrespect intended to the band, whose arrival at 8pm happened to coincide with the optimum ‘refreshment levels’ of just about everybody on site… which isn’t to say one must be bladdered to enjoy them, but it certainly helped! The contrasting vocal techniques of Sarah Harvey-Smart and Mandie G were used to maximum effect on ‘The Big Easy’ and ‘Blues Motel’, and just about the whole tent boogied along, drinks in hand, to the likes of ‘Too Tired To Pray’, ‘Hell On Wheels’ and ‘Telling Lies’, ‘Preacher Man’ ending things on a rousing, ‘Freebird’-type note. I’ve seen Roadhouse on several previous occasions and this was by far the best. Yes, my old mate Danny Gwilym of Tokyo Blade/Shogun fame is one of their guitar players but that has Sweet FA to do with this assessment. Their latest album, ‘Gods & Highways & Old Guitars’, is a great start-off point for those of an inquisitive nature.
To my enormous sadness, this hugely enjoyable weekend was almost at an end. I suspect that WISHBONE ASH were also troubled by the curfew issue. Their set coming in a little on the short side (for them) at 85 minutes, though 16 of those minutes were taken up by my all-time fave song, the immortal ‘Phoenix’. Given that this was a festival environment and his band were potentially exposing themselves to quite a few new punters (not literally!), it was brave of guitarist/leader Andy Powell to have included three selections from the admittedly excellent new album ‘Blue Horizon’, and another from its 2011 predecessor ‘Elegant Stealth’ (namely ‘Can’t Go It Alone’), but the band played like demons all the same.
I’m often asked which of the two rival versions of Wishbone is my favourite; the Powell-run line-up we saw last nite, or bassist/vocalist Martin Turner’s counterpart. It’s hard to answer conclusively as they both have strengths and weaknesses. As I know for sure is that, as I realised standing in that tent, eyes closed and pint of Pickled Pig scrumpy in hand, to see the same song performed by the iconic Powell, Turner, Turner (or Wisefield) and Upton is surely among my dying wishes. Meanwhile, check out this set-list: ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Sometime World’, ‘Can’t Go It Alone’, ‘Heavy Weather’, ‘Blue Horizon’, ‘Persephone’, ‘Engine Overheat’, ‘Blowing Free’, ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Deep Blues’.
Sunday 9th August
Okay, so here’s a small précis of my weekend trip to the Cambridge Rock Festival. The Crobeare swung by to pick me up in the Bearemobile mid-to-late-morning on Saturday and a box of wine was opened (by the occupant of the passenger seat!) as we made good, speedy progress up the M11 to our hotel. Being a £30 taxi ride away from the site we stocked up on vital provisions whilst awaiting the arrival of Messrs Noel Buckley and Mark Taylor. All plans to head straight to the festival were scuppered when Noel produced a bottle of Honey Jack Daniel’s… ah well, on that particular day there were only two bands I wasn’t going to miss, so with time on our hands we lounged around, cracked a few gags, checked out the footie results and sipped politely at few tumblers of Tennessee’s finest. Heaven.
We arrived on site to the closing strains of Welshmen FIREROAD, a shame as the guys later gave me a CD that sounded pretty good in a Black Crowes-y type of way. Besides the attraction of live music and a wonderful, friendly atmosphere, the CRF is also a beer and real ale fest and, caught up in the excitement of finally arriving at the bar, the Beare and I made the mistake of going straight to the strongest cider. It packed quite a kick – a little too much considering we head the whole weekend ahead of us.
Anyway, the band I’d been waiting to see, PEARL HANDLED REVOLVER, were up next. Two rather fine albums of “psychedelic heavy blooze-rock” (their own term) had caused me to fall under the spell of this fine UK-based group. After a couple of numbers I began to wonder why Andy Paris’ guitar was so low in the mix and then, finally, it dawned upon me – PHR are a band in the spirit of the Doors… the swirling keys of Simon Rinaldo are *supposed* to be the lead instrument. It also explained the slightly Jim Morrison-esque presence and gravelly voice of Lee Vernon. Right… no problem. On with the show. After a cautious welcome – I wasn’t the only one to be confused! – the crowd got behind the band, “See! The cider’s kicking in!! grinned Vernon, who were confident enough to preview a handful of tunes from a third album that’s due at towards the year’s end (their titles may have been ‘Help Me Down From The Trees’, ‘Into The Blue’ and ‘Loverman’). ‘Rattle Your Bones’ and the sprawling, ten-minute-plus finale of ‘Peace By Piece’ went down remarkably well as part of what was one of the weekend’s finest and best received performances.
Alas, if PHR were to prove Rolls-Royce-like, LEON HENDRIX was a motorised skateboard at best. The younger brother of you-know-who was an utter embarrassment, carried along by his backing band and rescued by cameos from Chantel McGregor and Ben Poole – not that I witnessed either of the latter; a few numbers from Leon were enough to send Mark taylor and I scuttling off to the dressing room of the show’s headline act in search of quiet and refreshment – in that order. I’m willing to bet that Jimi was doing 78 RPM in his tomb.
Though hardly the fault of the organisers , who put themselves through the mill each year to make it happen, perhaps the only negative aspect of the CRF is the strictness of its curfew. I later learned that despite going onstage on time FM had been forced to pull some numbers from their set, so there was no ‘Frozen Heart’ (Booooo!!! Hisssssss!!!), though the group were on top form whilst barrelling through a 75-minute, career-encompassing repertoire. I’ve seen them so many times during the past three decades that I’ve almost become accustomed to and indeed been spoiled by the band’s quality levels. It’s always cool to see them in slightly unusual environments and keep a discreet eye on those around me, just watching the smiles grow. Last night was no different and besides the welcome yet unexpected inclusion of ‘Cold Hearted’, it was great to see Bernie Marsden joining them for a rousing send-off of the Whitesnake standard ‘Here I Go Again’ (check out this great post-show dressing room snap of us all together… thanks to Mr Buckley) . The set-list ran as follows: ‘Tough Love’, ‘I Belong To The Night’, ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘Cold Hearted’, ‘Let Love Be The Leader’, ‘Closer To Heaven’, ‘That Girl’, ‘Wild Side’, ‘Tough It Out’, ‘Bad Luck’, ‘Metropolis’/‘Over You’, ‘Crosstown Train’, ‘Burning My Heart Down’ and ‘Here I Go Again’.
Saturday 9th August
Just off for a welcome weekend away from the misery of Ling Towers at the Cambridge Rock Festival, where FM are set to perform a headline show as part of their 30th anniversary celebrations. Before hitting the road I thought I’d share a top secret dressing room snap leaked from yesterday’s rehearsals. Oh, okay… you got me. This piccie was actually taken prior to the band’s gig at the Firefest in 2009 and the FM-impersonating culprits are none other than (from L-R): a certain resident of Catford as Merv Notworthy, Kieran Dargan AKA Steve Overweight, Didge Miserable (Phil Ashcroft), Chris Overworked (Tony Marshall) and Pete Juggs (Sue Ashcroft). Christ, what a motley crew!!!
Friday 8th August
What a great evening I had last night at the Garage, watching a band that I thought I’d never, ever see. “The last time we were here was back in 1977, when we opened up a tour with the Stranglers,” roared frontman Handsome Dick Manitoba as they took to the stage. “It’s fucking great to be back in London, I love this city. We are the Dictators from New York City, and the party starts now!”
This exclamation was apt as the band burst into the song of the same name, one of a pair to be lifted from ‘...And You!’, a 1990 album from the singer’s post-Dictators outfit Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom (the other being ‘New York, New York’). The absence of Andy Shernoff, the guitarist responsible for writing most of the proto-punk band’s best-known anthems, was regrettable, but with Ross The Boss on guitar and JP ‘Thunderbolt’ Patterson, the band’s drummer from the 1990s, joining Manitoba, who had previously informed me that rhythm guitarist Scott ‘Top Ten’ Kempner “gives the reunion his blessing”, there could be few complaints.
Instead of relying so heavily upon the ‘Bloodbrothers’ and ‘D.F.F.D.’ albums (released in 1978 and 2001 respectively) the set-list could really have done with a few more vintage songs – maybe that had something to do with Shernoff’s lawyers, I don’t know (tellingly, the suffix of ‘NYC’ is now also a part of the group’s name), but ‘The Next Big Thing’ and ‘Two Tub Man’ still sounded as vital as they did in 1975, and an encore version of the MC5’s ‘Kick Out The Jams’ kicked some serious butt. A cover of ‘Slow Death’ by the Flaming Groovies showcased some nice guitar work from the team of Ross The Boss and Daniel Rey (once a producer of the Ramones), but Manitoba was the show’s star, launching into a series of rock ‘n’ roll-themed rants and voicing loud and genuine exasperation at the barrier that separated the band and crowd (“What am I, fucking Gene Simmons?! I am a big rock star and you are puny little people, I’m so much greater than you! NO! That’s not the way Handsome Dick Manitoba works. Believe me, before the end of this show I will feel your sweat and we will be dancing together”.)
To prove this point he delivered ‘Baby Let’s Twist’ from a mob frantically trying to take selfies on their mobiles for Facebook. Clambering back onstage Handsome Dick beamed: “Now maybe my son will be impressed?!” As well he should… Dictators NYC remain a truly amazing band. Here’s the set-list: ‘The Party Starts Now’, ‘The Next Big Thing’, ‘Avenue A’, ‘The Savage Beat’, ‘Who Will Save Rock ‘N’ Roll?’, ‘Pussy And Money’, ‘I Stand Tall’, ‘Slow Death’, ‘Baby Let’s Twist’, ‘Faster And Louder’, ‘New York, New York’ and ‘Stay With Me’, with encores of ‘Two Tub Man’ and ‘Kick Out The Jams’.
Thursday 7th August
I’m working on a Buyer’s Guide to the Dream Theater albums for a future issue of Classic Rock. It’s great to hear ‘Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes From A Memory’ again… my own personal fave DT record… at top volume here in the office! They’ve made such consistently wonderful music, it’s going to be very tough to break them down into differing echelons of greatness. And of course, in which ever order you make those selections it’s inevitable there will be a flurry of reader emails and letters calling you a clueless dickhead!
Wednesday 6th August
For quite some time Mr Neil Pudney and myself had been promising ourselves a night on the ale and with Mrs P away in Lanzarote, we made the most of our window. Pudders and I both enjoyed the debut album from Lifesigns, so we headed off to see them at the Borderline, starting first with a few cheeky libations at the Crobar (natch!).
We dived into the Borderline nice ‘n’ early as I wanted to take a look at Jump, a band whose albums I’ve collected since 1994’s ‘…All The King’s Men’ but had never actually seen perform live. Though the show was in an unplugged trio format John Dexter Jones was to prove a charismatic and personable frontman and the colour and excellence of songs such as ‘Down Three Times’ and the singalong ‘Free At Last’ were simply undeniable, the wonderful ‘Bethesda’ offering not-so-distant echoes of Fish-era Marillion. Pudders was compelled to buy a CD and we both agreed it would be great to see them in an ‘electric’ scenario before too long. For those who’ve never heard of Jump before, try checking out this rather splendid video for ‘Down Three Times’. I bet that my mate Paul Gillooly will love them!
Headliners Lifesigns were also a bit special. Okay, there was no Nick Beggs, who’d played bass on the album, but Mr Jon Poole from Cardiacs was a superb replacement. It was nice to see mainman John Young, supplier of keys and vocals for a list of bands as long as your arm in his element, especially when he said: “All my life I’ve been fortunate to work for lots of great artists in enormodomes around the world but my dream was always to play a gig where the crowd knew the words to my songs” – aw, bless. If pastoral neo-prog with high quality musicianship is your thing, this is a band you should already be on first name terms with. Most of the ‘Lifesigns’ album was played, including ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Fridge Full Of Stars’, ‘At The End Of The World’, plus the encore of ‘Carousel’, and the set also introduced a couple of tracks lined up for its successor, one of which was might have been called ‘Voice In My Head’ ( you want more details? C’mon, it was a boys night out, I can’t be sure). ’Twas a superb evening tho’!
Tuesday 5th August
Over the past several months we’ve started something called Monday Night Supper Club; a sit-down meal that attempts to draw its participants away from the vortex of the Crobar for an evening of (comparatively) sedate culture ‘n’ conversation. Gotta say, French cuisine has never really appealed to me – in fact, it’s hard to think of anything Gallic that doesn’t nauseate me, but the boeuf bourguignon at Brasserie Zédel in Leicester Square was delicious. And of course we ended up back in the Crobar again afterwards! Here’s a shot of myself, Aaron Aedy from Paradise Lost and my pal Tyrina Gallagher indulging in one last cheeky nightcap!
Monday 4th August
Oh dear. It’s that awful, Pete Townshend-esque ‘lock the office door moment’ when you’re writing a review of the new American Hi-Fi record and have to visit Miley Cyrus’ website to find out whether Stacey Jones is still her drummer and ‘musical director... oh, the shame! The album concerned, ‘Blood & Lemonade’, is rather nifty. Wish I’d have known that A H-F played the 100 Club a few months ago, as I’d have gone. Here’s their new video, filmed at that same London show.
Sunday 3rd August
This time next week I shall be recovering from a monumental, FM-inspired hangover, as the band celebrate their 30th anniversary at the Cambridge Rock Festival. Sadly, I cannot make it across on Friday night but with a Sat/Sun bill that also features Wishbone Ash, Mostly Autumn, Jørn Lande, Roadhouse (featuring my old mucker Danny Gwilym), Mr So & So, Laurence Jones and Pearl Handled Revolver, I really can’t wait for what’ll probably be one of my last blow-outs of 2014 (Firefest excepted, obviously!)
Saturday 2nd August
Football is back, football is back, ’allo, ’allo! Eddie and I are just home from a day out at Griffin Park where Palace played Brentford in a sun-soaked pre-season friendly. Tickets in the away end were sold old – Goddamn those Premier League gloryhunters! – but thanks to my friend Chris Gers, who is actually a Hartlepool fan, but took up supporting his local team to prevent his kids from following ManUre, Chelski or some such, we had tickets among the Bees fans. Lucky that I am a master of tact and diplomacy, eh? *Ahem*. I’d forgotten how difficult it can be to stand among the opposing supporters, especially when their team raced into a deserved 2-0 lead. Glenn Murray and Marouane Chamakh pulled things back to 2-2 but new Bees signing Moses Odubajo scoring a wonder-goal winner, the result seemed pretty fair. I don’t place a great deal of importance in these games, they’re really for fitness and integration of the new faces but CPFC’s side was a very strong one, and the performance wasn’t great. At all. Oh well…
My condolences to anyone that knew Jess Jaworski, who played keyboards for the pre-Status Quo bands The Scorpions and The Spectres, who has died after a two-year battle with cancer. Yeah, another one… *sighs*…
Friday 1st August
Last night was spent at Kettners in Soho, with a gang of fellow loonies, celebrating the 50th birthday of the lovely Annick Barbaria, the godmother of my two kids and one of the most splendid people I know. Happy birthday Unique One! Here’s to many more!
Look out for the usual updates at the Playlist and YouTube pages…