Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Schizophonics at Weirdsville, Wednesday August 8th

The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Schizophonics are the very embodiment of what raw and visceral Rock ‘n’ Roll should be and seeing them play live is such an exhilarating experience. I’ve seen them twice now and although they are to all intents and purposes a high tempo act that make you smile from ear to ear, their shows are also tinged with a slight hint of danger. There’s an unpredictability bursting out from frontman Pat Beers and his totally committed and volatile performance that takes me right back to being down the front at gigs by Black Flag, Iggy Pop or The Soundtrack of Our Lives. It’s that feeling of butterflies in your stomach as he careers around the stage with no regard to his personal safety or, it would appear, those of us right in the firing line of the front row either! I first saw the band earlier this year at the fantastic Hipsville Weekender where even the huge stage of the cavernous ballroom at Dreamland could not contain Pat and at one point he teetered off the edge in front of me only to bounce back unscathed. It was as though there was a mini-trampoline hidden in the photographer’s pit. I spent a lot of that show with my heart in my mouth. I missed the band at Weirdsville last year so I was intrigued to find out how they would fare on the tiny stage at the Fiddler’s Elbow, however after the gig, when I expressed my earlier concerns to drummer Lety, she casually remarked that that was nothing, they had often played on far smaller. 

The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
I managed to get a spot right in front of Pat and I was half expecting to end the evening battered and bruised with splintered shards of his guitar or a microphone stand stuck in my head. As it turned out the mic stand only got knocked into us once, which is testament to Pat’s consummate skill and gymnastic ability as he pirouetted around the stage somehow managing to avoid colliding with the drum kit or injure any of his bandmates or members of the crowd in the process. Often three-piece bands can be a bit limited visually but not so The Schizophonics as Pat Beers combines the very best of all your guitar heroes and frontmen in one package. A lot of the time he doesn’t seem to be playing guitar in the conventional way, I don’t notice much in the way of strumming or picking that’s for sure, it’s more a case of the occasional smash of the strings with fist, palm or even microphone stand. Occasionally, there’s a violent blur of Pete Townshend style windmilling, right hand crashing down on the strings while his fingers on the left hand work the frets to spin out some of the catchiest chords and riffs you’re likely to hear. There is a real groove to The Schizophonics courtesy of super-cool drummer Lety and impressive bassist Blake (from San Diego band Mrs. Henry), they keep it simple to enable Pat to freestyle and do his thing and they inject a real soulful feel into proceedings. So, they have the groove and they have the stunning live performance but most importantly, the band can most definitely back it all up with the sheer quality of their songs such as the superb “Streets of Heaven”, “Venus Transit” and the transcendental groove of “The Train”. 

The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Occasionally, Pat places his guitar on the floor and hunches over it Jimi Hendrix style, fiddling with the effects pedals as Lety and Blake power on relentlessly. Lost in the groove, he leaves the instrument as it is, gets up and struts his stuff as the feedback screams. He does the splits, knee drops, star jumps and spins 360 degrees, pushing the mic stand back and forth so it almost topples into the crowd. He picks up his guitar again and the astounding thing is he also runs through these moves while playing the damn thing too! They include some really promising new songs in the night's set including “Egypt Land Love”, “Something Has Got To Give” and one of the highlights of my night, the excellent “One I Want” which is surely crying out to be released as the next single. They encore with a wild version of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” which sees Pat on the floor in the crowd, a suitability manic end to a mind-blowing gig and another great night at Weirdsville. 

The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
As we were leaving the venue, I noticed Pat sitting outside on the edge of the kerb, alone, head in hands, drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted. I didn’t want to interrupt his well-deserved break with a barrage of gushing praise so reluctantly decided to head for home. However, I bumped into Lety who was holding Pat’s guitar with its (soon to be labelled ‘iconic’ I’m sure…) shark teeth carved headstock and I asked her if they had any copies of their LP “Land of The Living” for sale. I was disappointed at Hipsville as they’d sold out before I could get one and was hoping to pick up a copy tonight but didn’t see any merchandise stall. Lety said that unfortunately the shipment of albums had been held up at customs but should be delivered some time during the U.K. tour…just my luck! However, there was some good news; she also mentioned that the band will be starting work on their new album soon and if the new songs are anything to go by it is going to be an absolute classic, I'm sure. Check out the band's web-site here for up-to-date news and information.

The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Weirdsville is held on the last Saturday of every month at the Fiddler's Elbow in Camden and they have also started putting on shows in Brighton too. Coming up are some great looking shows including The Courettes with Oh! Gunquit at the end of August and The Voo-Dooms with Les Kitschenette's in September. They have also just announced details of their yearly Hipsville Weekender next May, so please check out their web-site here for more details.

The Schizophonics - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
For more photos of The Schizophonics at Weirdsville please check out the Retro Man Facebook page here and videos are up at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here. Here's a taster...enjoy!

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Beatwave Weekender - Three Days of Garage, Psych, Surf & Beat Mayhem on the East Sussex Coast...with Photos by Jeff Pitcher

The Overboards at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
I was finally lured down to Hastings for my first experience of Beatwave, which promised us “three days of Garage, Psych, Surf & Beat mayhem on the East Sussex coast”. Now in its third year, Beatwave is the spin-off of the regular Fratcave club hosted by Justin Ellis (The Sine Waves) and Ian Greensmith (The Dentists, Ye Ascoyne d’Ascoynes) and it exceeded all the expectations I had after glowing reports from friends who had been along on previous years. Over the course of the weekend, we were treated to numerous DJ’s and live acts including The Jack Cades, The Voo-Dooms, Thee Girl Fridays and Les BOF! and I really do mean treated, as Beatwave is a completely free event. All the organisers asked was for people to contribute any spare change (or hopefully more…) to their chosen charity, St. Michael’s Hospice. Although, Justin and Ian are the main driving force behind Beatwave, they did have help behind the scenes and from sponsors State Records, the Upbeat DJ Collective and NGG Fanzine. I love NGG; it’s an old-school printed fanzine, which is of course where the roots of Retro Man Blog originated back in the 80’s with my old “Out of Step” fanzine. The latest NGG issue boasts some superb Mummies artwork on the cover (so good, they were selling T-shirts featuring the design) and inside there’s a review of the Mummies recent London gig and an in-depth interview along with features on Lee Grimshaw’s Spinout Productions and Nuevo Ramon 5, but more about them later. My only problem with NGG is that it’s in A5 format and I couldn’t check it out properly over the weekend as I’d left my reading glasses at home. However when I did get back, glasses in place, I noticed a little comment on the front cover “this is way too small to read without glasses” – ha, very funny! 

DJ's Bongo Debbie & Beatwave Compere Ian Greensmith - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
There’s an extremely friendly crowd at Beatwave and the good vibes were encouraged by some excellent DJ’s who included Lee Grimshaw of the Spinout Show, Juliet Harris from Indie Wonderland, Tracey ScreamCheese and Neil Sick from Stay Sick in Brighton. This was the first year that Beatwave was held at The Palace, which is located on the seafront close to Hastings Pier and I thought it was a really good choice of venue. It never got too crowded and the long bar and efficient, friendly Staff meant that it didn’t take an age to get drinks. As this was my first time at Beatwave, I couldn’t really compare with the previous venue The Albion although from chatting to people over the weekend it seemed the consensus was that overall the Palace was the better of the two. Although the Palace was a bit of a walk to the Old Town, where most of the restaurants and bars are, at least you didn’t get the worry of being overrun by Stag and Hen parties, tourists and drunken weekend revellers (non-Beatwave related of course…). The only two negatives I can think of were the lack of air-conditioning in the main bar and venue so it was like a furnace in the July heatwave and by the end of the Saturday night the draft beer had started to run out. Unfortunately, by the Sunday, there was nothing available on tap at all which was a bit weird, you would have expected the pub to ensure they had enough stock for such an event – or was it just that the Beatwave crowd drank an exceptional and unprecedented amount of beer I wonder?  

The Jack Cades at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
However, those minor gripes aside the venue looked great, Justin and the team had decorated the Palace with some superb Beatwave artwork and banners, inside and out. The design of the posters and T-Shirts were truly exceptional, all themed around the Sea and Surf of course and featuring the resident Beatwave band, the mysterious Overboards. At the back of the venue was another room with stalls selling T-Shirts and vintage clothes alongside fully stocked State Records and Dirty Water Records pop-up stores. Sexton Ming, the Medway Poet, musician and one of the founders of the Stuckist Art movement along with Billy Childish, also had a stall and he was drawing portraits of people for a small fee. Mind you, it took a brave soul to sit for Sexton, as some of them were a little bit harsh to say the least and there was a lot of fun seeing who had come out of the experience with dignity intact when the finished pictures were shared around afterwards. After the last band had finished each night, the room was turned round into a 3D Cinema and free shots were handed out to those who “could sit through the whole showing”. As if all this free entertainment wasn’t enough, on the Saturday afternoon, the Red Arrows treated us to an exhilarating superb 15-minute display of Aerobatics over the Hastings coast which I am sure Justin and Ian arranged on the quiet but were too modest to admit to. It was just a shame that we couldn’t see every band or DJ that performed over the weekend but that really would have been some feat of endurance, especially in the sweltering heat. Anyway, I guess the event is geared up for people coming and going, maybe popping out for a bite to eat or sneaking off for a quick paddle in the sea. 

The Voo-Dooms at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
So, let’s take a look at the bands we did manage to see starting on the Friday evening and our much-anticipated first time viewing of The Voo-Dooms. They have been busy recently and have landed some decent support slots with The X-Men and Fur Dixon's WTFukushima. There has definitely been a buzz about the band recently, I keep seeing people at gigs wearing their eye-catching T-Shirts, and they certainly didn’t disappoint, they put in a superb performance. Bruce Brand, swaps the drum seat for the bass and Kevin Smith from The Baron Four is on lead guitar. Fezzed up Dave Prince is on the voodoo drums and Mick Cocksedge is on lead vocals and guitar. They have recently been in State Records North Down Sound studio with Mole at the controls recording their debut LP "Destination Doomsville" which is due out on Trash Wax Records in September and I can tell you it will be well worth getting hold of. They appear in matching black and white striped outfits and kick off with the instrumental "Greenline To Doomsville" which merges Booker T with Link Wray and then it's into the fantastic "Hangman's Stomp". Despite the album being full of horror-tinged song titles such as "Teenage Ghoul" and "Gravedigger's Night Shift Blues" musically they don't labour the point and its all remarkably uptempo and cheerful, "Come On" even has a touch of Country about it. "Do The Plague" is built around an uplifting circular riff which highlights Kevin's excellent guitar work. They play a great cover of Shel Naylor's Freakbeat classic "One Fine Day" with it's crunching guitar motif sparking off some moving and grooving in the crowd. The band have a great chemistry and are all enjoying themselves which all adds to the lively Beatwave atmosphere. The last song "I Want You To Know" has a bit of a "Brand New Cadillac" vibe to it, it's an excellent Rockabilly Pop song and then all too soon, it's over. The band return for an encore of The Grains of Sand "Goin’ Away, Baby" which drummer Dave tells me later is his favourite track from the Pebbles compilation and it's a great way to draw the set to a close. The band will be playing at Weirdsville on September 29th for the LP launch party along with our good friends Les Kitschenette's. We'll feature a track or two from the album in a future episode of Retrosonic Podcast.

The Overboards at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
Opening up proceedings on the Sunday were the mysterious Overboards, dressed all in black from head to toe. They are a mysterious bunch, for some reason they only seem to appear in public every July in Hastings, perfect timing for Beatwave then. They all looked somewhat familiar underneath their bowl cut mop-tops and beehive hair-do’s but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Anyway, they launched into a short set of Garage Rock classics including Fire’s “Father’s Name Is Dad” and thanks to the handy lyric sheets that the band distributed we could all join in for a good old-fashioned singalong. It wouldn’t surprise me if The Overboards don’t now vanish into thin air until the same time next year, let’s just wait and see… 

Thee Girl Fridays at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
Thee Girl Fridays were one of the hits of the weekend and right from the start of their very own Kazoo powered theme tune intro, their infectious enthusiasm clearly endeared them to the crowd. "Tell Me Why" was a particular highlight as it showcased Suzanne's powerful Soulful vocals and proved that there’s a lot more to come from this Edinburgh based band. The set included a few cover versions including two Southern Culture on The Skids tracks along with The Cramps "Goo Goo Muck” which fitted in nicely with their own songs. Talking of which, “Love Witch” from their self-titled debut E.P. was excellent as was “Dracula", where the band dragged their producer Angus (Les BOF! & The Thanes) up on stage to contribute a suitably fiendish cackle. They ended their set with "Big Knicker Twist" with its Shangri-La’s call and response vocals and humorous lyrics such as “It’s the craziest dance, you can do it in your big white pants". Usually it’s the audience throwing their underwear on stage in appreciation but Thee Girl Fridays trash the tradition with Suzanne throwing some oversized underwear emblazoned with the band’s logo into the crowd. I was the lucky recipient of a pair and I just realised I forgot to get the girls to sign them; I guess I’ll have to take them along the next time I see the band play! You can hear the excellent “Too Much of a Good Thing" from their debut E.P. in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 31.

The Jack Cades at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
I suppose The Jack Cades could be classified as a Garage Rock Supergroup of sorts as they boast a mighty fine pedigree. Alex from Speedball Jnr has the unenviable task of playing the bass alongside three other notable bassists in their own right. Mike from The Baron Four and Elsa from The Missing Souls have swapped four strings for six and the line-up is completed by that master of all-trades Mole (himself a bassist with The Embrooks and now Nuevo Ramon 5) on the drums. The Jack Cades superb new mini-album "Music For Children" is already up there as one of the best releases of the year so far. Although John Gibbs from the Masonics played bass on the LP, Alex is now a fully-fledged member of The Jack Cades and her and Mole make up a superb rhythm section. It’s live where the band really excel, they really are a great visual act and they are a much more powerful affair than I was expecting. "Head In The Sand" in particular is elevated to another level with a furious Velvet Underground style rhythm guitar powering it along. Mike and Elsa share the lead vocals and they complement each other nicely with Mole also adding backing vocal harmonies. Mike’s Baron Four bandmate Kevin Smith joins them on stage for some mind-blowing harmonica on a bluesy "Big Fish". There’s a cover of The Beatles “The Night Before” and a nice surprise when Alex plays a familiar bass riff and they slam into a raw take on The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat”. As great as the "Music For Children" album is I have to admit that it's three brand new tracks that really blow my mind and promise even better things to come from The Jack Cades. Two killer songs "And Pretend" and "Chicago Typewriter" were proceeded by a surefire classic in the making "Run Paulie, Run" which features an instantly memorable riff from Mike. The good news is that this will be released as a single on the Lyon based Dangerhouse Skylab label later this year, hopefully in November. With a bit of luck we’ll be playing at least one of these excellent new songs in a future episode of Retrosonic Podcast.

Les BOF! at Beatwave - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
It was good to see Les BOF! again, they have been having a bit of a break from gigging recently with singer Laurent busy with the excellent No-Things, but they are back with a new LP due out soon. The Edinburgh based “Garage Beat Francais” band are always good value as a live act and they certainly didn’t disappoint tonight with live-wire frontman Laurent as usual spending most of the set dancing in the audience. In the beginning he appears from the crowd and plays some wicked harmonica on the instrumental intro "Rue Sembat" before the crunching chords to "Ils Vont Tuer Le R'n'R" kick in. There’s a great version of The Teddy Boy’s take on "Jezebel" and a fair few songs that I didn't recognize of which "Fin De Monde" really stood out. They end a thoroughly enjoyable set with "Formidable", a French remake of Brian James & The Cutters "Shout, Shake & Go!” which certainly incites much shouting and shaking in the crowd. The band encore with Jacques Dutronc’s "Cactus" and cap it all off with a raucous singalong of Plastic Bertrand's "Ça Plane Pour Moi". 

The Cretins at Beatwave - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
First up on the Sunday afternoon were The Cretins, a young three-piece band of 16-18 year olds from nearby Worthing. Ian and Justin saw them supporting The X-Men recently and straight away invited them to play at Beatwave. Their youthful confidence was a big hit with the crowd, many of whom were getting pangs of nostalgia thinking back to when they were young, starting off in bands for the first time. Let’s just hope The Cretins are still out there playing when they are at the age of needing reading glasses to check out NGG fanzine! They played a thoroughly entertaining set of down and dirty raw Rhythm & Blues that included a couple of promising self-penned songs and some classics such as “Money”, “Psychotic Reaction” and “Hi-Heel Sneakers”. Two particular highlights were the opening track “Justine” (which you can check out on our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here) and a great version of The Action/Mickey Lee Lane song “Hey Sha Lo Ney” which went down a storm. Anyway, we’ll be keeping an eye on The Cretins, there’s a lot more to come I’m sure. 

Nuevo Ramon 5 at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
Nuevo Ramon 5 is a unique concept – at first, you might be forgiven for thinking (as I was) that the band is another Garage Rock scene ‘supergroup’ with a fictional back story as some familiar faces take to the stage. There’s Beatwave host Ian on the Drums, Debbie from Ye Nuns on the keyboards and there’s the ubiquitous Mole (he should change his name by deed poll) this time on bass. They are joined by Zac with a very cool looking white Gretsch guitar and vocalist Natalia and they proceed to entertain us with a stunning set of Latino infused songs. The sound is a mix of Ye-Ye, Flamenco, Bossa Nova and Tropicália and it’s an absolute delight. They end with a Spanish version of The Monkees “Last Train To Clarksville” and it’s clear that the band were having as much fun as we were in the crowd. After their show I asked Ian if they were another made up band, “didn’t you read the feature in NGG Fanzine?” he replied…hmmm…no I didn’t, I really must carry my reading glasses with me at all times! Natalia is actually the daughter of Ramón Farrán, a respected Spanish Jazz musician who formed The Ramon-5 in the mid-60’s, releasing two EP’s in a Yé-yé style before going on to success in other musical fields. This year, some 52 years after the original band split up Natalia has brought the Ramon-5 back to life as Nuevo Ramon 5 to play her father’s songs again. It was so enjoyable and I sincerely hoped this wasn’t just a special one-off appearance for Beatwave so I was pleased to hear that there are some tentative plans for a new EP. I really hope they’ll consider working on some brand new material too, and more gigs of course. Anyway, I would really recommend getting hold of the new NGG to read more about this fascinating story. 

Nuevo Ramon 5 at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
It's a little know fact that when Howard Carter plundered Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings he also brought back the mummies of four of the great Pharaoh's retainers to England. They have recently been brought out of their 3,000 year slumber to be reincarnated as The Mirage Men and were given names and assigned roles as follows - Nile Rivers and Effendi O'Fender on guitars, Pharaoh Rocher on drums and Pharaoh Sandals on Bass. Their mission was to entertain us with their authentic Ancient Egyptian Surf music and close Beatwave with a suitably bizarre yet thoroughly entertaining ending, it was great fun.

The Mirage Men at Beatwave - Photo copyright Jeff Pitcher
So, a huge thank you to Justin, Ian and their team for a truly special weekend – I know how difficult it is just to arrange a couple of gigs a year so I can really appreciate the hard work that they must have put in to make this such a memorable and enjoyable event. The good news is that they are already starting work on next year’s Beatwave, which just so happens to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, so we might be swapping the Surf for the Stars in 2019. For more photos of the weekend, please check out the Beatwave Photo Album at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and there are some videos at our YouTube channel here. Please do click the highlighted links throughout the feature to check out more information on the relevant bands, DJ’s, Artists, Labels etc, and give them your support. Keep a check on the Fratcave Facebook page for information on their upcoming events and of course to keep up to date on next year's Beatwave. Finally, I'd like to thank Jeff Pitcher for permission to use some of his stunning photographs in the feature, for more information on Jeff’s work please check out his official web-site here.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Jetstream Pony "Self Destruct Reality" EP launch at The Finsbury Friday 13th July by David Leach

Jetstream Pony "Self Destruct Reality" EP
Drama from the very start. I exit Manor House tube station and am greeted by a thunderstorm - the first rain in the city for weeks. I make a dash for it to The Finsbury pub where tonight’s gig is taking place, but am soon to discover that this is not the only electrically-charged moment of the evening as its pointed out that, during the sound check, the band had been experiencing a little more electricity through their microphones than they were comfortable with. The problems appeared to have been resolved before show time and, thankfully, a ‘self-destruct reality’ is averted! Jetstream Pony are the first band on tonight in what is a four act line up, I am guessing they are a late addition to the bill as having heard their music they strike me as a band who could  probably anticipate being higher up the pecking order .They appear to be on a bit of a roll at the moment as they have been played on BBC radio twice this week, and have gained a few admiring comments in the music media (plus an endorsement from a leading light in the world of indie music) and it is apparent as they take the stage there are a fair few more people than you would normally anticipate being at a show for the first band.

Jetstream Pony Photo by David Leach
The set opens with ‘Not The One’, a track from their new five song EP. Their sound is powerful, immediate and direct. It has something of a commercial, outward looking indie aspect, with not a shamble or a shoe-gaze in sight. I wouldn’t go quite as far as describing it as ‘Power Pop’ as such as, lyrically, there appear to be deeper, and sometimes darker, undercurrents that you wouldn’t associate with that genre. There is, however, certainly a punk bite in the thick bass lines and searing guitar and the tunes are without doubt proper melodic earworms. As the set progresses, they play another track from new EP called ‘Out Of Reach’. Kerry Boettcher’s elongated, jagged bass line intro launches the song; it’s met with Sara Boyle’s metronomic powerful drum beat, Shaun Charman’s chiming guitar joins in echoing the bass line, while Beth Arzy’s cool tuneful vocal gives the sound brightness. This song gets a real groove going and I feel that it’s at this point that the set really starts to take shape and, more importantly, the ‘first band on’ sound issues have dissipated. 

Jetstream Pony Photo by David Leach
‘Zipwire’ is another from the EP; it is the fastest in their set and one can imagine how the track got its title as it’s a pure ‘adrenaline rush’ song. Singer Beth said that the lyrics at the end of the song were influenced by some lyrics by The Dentists although she is reticent to say which one! As a fellow fan of the same band, I would suggest that if you peer behind the door where they keep their universe you will find the answer there. For me the highlight of the set is the lead track on the new EP, ‘Self-Destruct Reality’ - a classic, bitter sweet pop song with a dark side to the lyrics which suggest the public face hides inner feelings of a lack of control. This is wrapped up in a fabulous repeating-patterned guitar melody –which could just be the aural equivalent of the artwork on the band’s single - that weaves through the song, breaking into waves of riffs while the band power on around it. It sounds great on record but, live, it really sounds quite anthemic! Sadly, I have to leave The Finsbury at the end of the Jetstream Pony set and haven’t caught the other artists on the “Get into Her Ears” bill. I have been to The Finsbury before and note that it does have a particular focus on promoting female artists as my last visit was also for an all- girl ‘folk-inspired’ line up. Around that time, I remember seeing a picture of an imagined female-dominated festival bill that was created in response to overwhelmingly male festival line ups. Summing up tonight’s performance, it occurs to me that Jetstream Pony would be a fine band to add to this imaginary bill.

Jetstream Pony Photo by David Leach
You can order the "Self Destruct Reality" EP from the Jetstream Pony Bandcamp site here or check out more information on forthcoming gigs and news at the band's Facebook page here. With many thanks to David for the review and photos.

Jetstream Pony Photo by Alia Halstead, design by Kenji

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Fur Dixon & WTFukushima! The Moth Club July 12th 2018

Fur Dixon & WTFukushima! at The Moth Club - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
I first became aware of Fur Dixon back in 1986 during The Cramps “A Date With Elvis” tour along with their now legendary appearance on The Tube TV Show where she impressed a lot of us Cramps fans with her Bunny tail hot pants, fur-lined bra and gum chewing rock’n’roll attitude. It looked like The Cramps had found a really strong line-up again; she seemed the perfect fit, a striking visual character to match the super-flamboyant Lux, the stunning Poison Ivy and the impeccably cool Nick Knox. Fur was the first bass player to perform live with the band but unfortunately, this promising line-up was short-lived and it was a real shame when she left the band shortly after the tour. “A Date With Elvis” was for me one of the best periods of The Cramps and personally, I have always found the LP one of their strongest and most consistent post-Bryan Gregory releases. Although Fur never actually played bass on the record itself - she only contributed backing vocals - she will always be associated with the album and that era. 

Fur Dixon & Dave Provost of WTFukushima! at The Moth Club - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
So, 30 odd years later and suddenly out of the blue, thanks to Brighton based promoters Stay Sick, Fur is back in the U.K. touring with a new band called WTFukushima! to promote their brand new album “Return 2 Sender”. It was unexpected news so I was on the case straight away to secure tickets to her London show at The Moth Club in Hackney. However, before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a quick look at Fur’s story so far…Originally from New York; Fur’s first musical experiences came from singing with her mother’s Church choir where she excelled, winning regional youth competitions. She then moved to California in the early 80’s, said good bye to religion and found Punk Rock via local DJ Rodney Bingenheimer and gigs by acts such as The Plasmatics and Ramones. Fur soon got into Rockabilly and Country music and joined bands The Whirlybirds and The Hollywood Hillbillys before The Cramps came calling. After leaving The Cramps, she returned to her love of Country and Folk releasing albums with Steve Werner before forming WTFukushima! in 2016. Fur has certainly assembled an impressive line-up that announces this as more of a band than a solo project and the main players from the album join her tonight. First of all, there’s the amiable Bernard Yin who joined up with the band after touring Europe with Garage Soul outfit The BellRays and he has switched from bass to lead guitar for WTF! He's a really impressive guitarist too.

Bernard Yin of WTFukushima! at The Moth Club - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
Dave Provost from The Dream Syndicate is on bass and Dusty Watson from the current line-up of The Sonics is on drums. That is some pedigree and they certainly didn’t disappoint. The three of them kick off with a Surf instrumental before Fur takes the stage and they crank up and into the next song. She looks great with a shock of blue/purple/mauve hair and still retains that charismatic Rock ‘n’ Roll look and attitude. If you come away from a gig and there is not one single song or melody stuck in your head then there is something wrong with that band. Thankfully, there’s no such problem with WTF! and despite the fact that I hadn’t heard the new LP before the show, it’s Fur’s own songs that provide the highlights of the night for me. The quality of the song-writing is apparent on stand-out tracks such as "Out of Darkness Slowly" and the Glam strut of "Sugar Sweet". 

Dusty Watson of WTFukushima! at The Moth Club - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
Fur Dixon of WTFukushima! at The Moth Club - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
The superb "Get That Saddle Off My Back" is preceded by a bit of a rant about the end of her time in The Cramps and I'm sure there will be more tales to follow in her forthcoming book. The band certainly draw on many and varied aspects of American music and there is a Bluesy swagger running through the core of their music. However, despite all this talk of Americana, Fur is not afraid to go off at an unexpected tangent; this is particularly evident with one of the two cover versions that feature on the album. “Baby’s On Fire” a collaboration by those most British of Artists, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp from Eno’s “Here Comes The Warm Jets” is a surprise and tonight live, it’s a raucous squealing wall of feedback from Bernard and driven along by Dusty’s immense tribal drumbeat. The other cover, also played tonight, is a slow burning and brooding take on Buffy Sainte Marie’s “Cod’ine” which really highlights Fur’s exceptional voice and you can see that all that practicing with the church choir has certainly paid dividends. 

WTFukushima! at The Moth Club - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
Fur acknowledges my 13th Floor Elevators T-Shirt and then launches into a super-charged version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and standing at the front a few feet in front of Dusty’s drums is an experience, he is a real powerhouse, that’s for sure. Despite their different musical backgrounds, there’s a real chemistry between the band members and they seem to be having as much fun as we are. There’s a lot of smiling going on – both on the stage and off it. They end a perfectly constructed set with “New Kind of Kick” then and encore with a nice and sleazy “Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?” and "Love Me" which all go down a storm with a thoroughly satisfied crowd. 

Fur Dixon of WTFukushima! at The Moth Club - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
The album "Return 2 Sender" is out now and available from the WTFukushima! Bandcamp site here. As mentioned in the feature, Fur is also working on a book so we will bring you more news on the title and release date as soon as we have it. For more photos from the show at The Moth Club please check out the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here. Some original videos from the gig can be found at our YouTube channel here. For more info on Stay Sick promotions check out their web-site here. An excellent interview with Fur by Neil from the Ginger Quiff Blog appears at the Louder Than War web-site here. For all Fur Dixon and WTFukushima! related news and information please check out the official web-site here.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Fur Dixon: The Cramps "A Date With Elvis" era Bassist's UK Tour with New Band WTFukushima & New LP Out Now!

My first introduction to Fur Dixon came from The Cramps '86 Tour promoting their superb "A Date With Elvis" LP (one of my favourites) where she joined the band as their first live bassist. Of course there was also the memorable appearance on The Tube with Fur's gum chewing sneer and fluffy bunny tail proving a huge hit with us Cramps fans. However, Fur's stay in the band ended along with the tour and she then went onto to get involved in the Americana and Folk scene. But now she is back with a new band WTFukushima which features a damn cool line-up including Dusty Watson of The Sonics, Dave Provost of The Dream Syndicate, Bernard Yin from The Fuzztones and Bellrays and Paul Roessler of The Screamers. They have a new album "Return 2 Sender" out now, which you can order from here, and this is preceded by a single, a cover of Buffy Sainte Marie's "Cod'ine".

Our friends at the Brighton based Stay Sick are arranging the U.K. Tour for WTFukushima and more details can be found at the Stay Sick site here. Tickets for the London show at The Moth Club on July 12th can be ordered via the We Got Tickets here. Finally, for more info on Fur Dixon and WTFukushima please check out her official web-site here.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Of Arrowe Hill "Domestic Espionage” New Album Launch Gig at Oxymoron Lambeth 1st June 2018 - Review by David Leach

of Arrowe Hill held their new album launch at the Oxymoron Pub in Lambeth. This pub is the antithesis of the characterless chain pubs and the achingly cool minimalist bars that are taking over London. Although situated on Lambeth Walk (Oi!), even the local pearly kings and queens would have to put their shades on to avoid being dazzled by the random riot of colour that greets you when entering. A conspiracy of clocks in what appears to be Salvador Dali’s fireplace seems like a good place to start this review. 

Tonight consists of two sets; a solo half hour acoustic set with a short break, followed by an extended set from the band. First up, the band’s front man and songwriter Adam Easterbrook pulls up a chair in front of a sizeable audience of friends, fans, and pub locals and, without amplification, runs through a set of songs from the past and present of his considerable back catalogue. The melancholic wonder of "Whatever that Means" is starker and darker than its more luxurious recorded version and the lyrics; 'when wonderland is in full retreat...keep it together, whatever that means' gain extra resonance when performed with just voice and acoustic (and in such an Alice in Wonderland setting). This set also features stripped down renditions of new album tracks, including its opener "You’ve Changed" that, on first listen, deals with the paranoia induced reflections on a sudden rise in personal status and "This Girl", which gets a laugh when Adam dedicates it to Theresa May. The idea of playing an acoustic set without amplification really worked, unwittingly forcing the captivated audience to strain a little to listen to the lyrics, greatly enhancing the informal ‘campfire' atmosphere of the set. 

Of Arrowe Hill - photo by David Leach
After a short break, the three-piece line up appear. The band have set up at the rear of the pub and, despite relatively spartan amplification arrangements, provide the audience with a full-blooded rendition of eight songs from the album released this very day and, as I discover later, some tracks from the next album that is already a work in progress. Particular highlights are the melodic "You Wish (It Was This Easy)", a bruised love song suggesting that, despite all life’s challenges, the couple in question can put the world to rights over a bottle of wine (hence the somewhat sardonic song title). "Oh! Serendipity" appears already to be an audience favourite; it’s nagging, catchy melody recalls the golden era of the Beatles and the Kinks but, also very much rooted in ‘the now’ with its narrator wistfully reflecting on winning the lottery; and on what he would do with the winnings (and what he would say to his boss) while reflecting on societies obsession with ‘being someone’. Last year’s single "Keep on Sweet Talking" is a claustrophobic, tense affair that touches on seduction and insomnia, and the encore "She’s Gone off the Rails" a swirling, powerful ‘The Who’ like account of a life in descent and turmoil. 

Of Arrowe Hill - photo by David Leach
On tonight’s evidence, "Domestic Espionage" is a more expansive, hard hitting collection of full-bodied songs than its fine predecessor, "A Conspiracy of Clocks". It’s easy to go overboard about the profound and poetic joys of Adam Easterbrook’s lyrics, but these songs are able to shine in an even brighter light due to the contributions of bass player Jason Hobart, and drummer Ian O’Sullivan, who provide the musical punctuation to Adam's flowing prose. This rhythm section have played together for many years in their previous band The Aardvarks and, as a unit, they appear to naturally 'sing from the same song book'. Their contributions help keep the mood of the songs upbeat with a somewhat psychedelic pop edge. They also provide a great foil for lyrics that mine the darker aspects of life whilst searching for the shards of light that make it all worthwhile! A final word of thanks should go to the Oxymoron proprietors, Bill and Lisa whose rather fine and quirky pub provided the perfect setting for tonight’s proceedings. - David Leach June 2018

Of Arrowe Hill - photo by David Leach
You can order "Domestic Espionage" on 180mg vinyl or the digital version via the Of Arrowe Hill Bandcamp site here. It's also available from Rough Trade or Sister Ray Record stores. For more information on the band, including news and upcoming gigs, please check out their Facebook page here. With thanks to David for the excellent review.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 31: Rumble In The Jungle-A-Go-Go - Hipsville and New Music Special

Photo courtesy of ZigPix
Retrosonic Podcast Episode 31 is out and available for your listening pleasure now. This episode is a decidedly 'non-retro' affair as we'll feature only new and recent music from the best international contemporary Punk, Psych, Mod, Beat, Soul and Garage Rock acts and we even have a couple of unreleased songs too. There's a report on the fantastic Hipsville Jungle-A-Go-Go weekender and we pick some of the musical highlights over the three days including songs from The Parkinsons, The Oddballs, The Schizophonics, Les Lullies, Black Mambas and The No-Things. There's songs from new albums by artists such as Autoramas and The Most and the new single from Magnus Carlson & Fay Hallam with a report on their recent show at The 100 Club. There's also news on our next Retro Man Blog Night with ex-Soundtrack of Our Lives and Union Carbide Productions frontman Ebbot Lundberg and his new band The Indigo Children at The Half Moon Putney on October 13th. Here's the complete track-list to this episode, please click on the highlighted band name to check their web-sites and how to order copies of the featured records.

The Past Tense "The Supergrass" taken from their new LP "7A"

Professional Againsters "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" from the Swedish band's LP "Everybody Hates The Professional Againsters". The band are part of Hans Selander's Record Union A&R roster so if your band needs help on getting your music onto digital platforms then contact Hans here

The Most "Girl Sees Daylight" another great Swedish band with a track from their new vinyl album "Beat Beat Boom!"

Autoramas "Stressed Out" from Brazil's Space Age Garage Rockers new LP "Libido". For full feature on the album including track-by-track guide, please check the Blog feature here

Autoramas "Libido" cover art by Julian Weber
The Oddballs "We Are The Oddballs" taken from their album of the same name

Les Lullies "Don Craine" from their "Don't Look Twice" E.P.

Black Mambas "Baby, I'll Give It To You" from The Witmer Sessions

The Schizophonics "Streets of Heaven & Hell" from their new LP "Land of The Living"

The Schizophonics at Hipsville - photo by Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons "Numb" from the album "The Shape of Nothing To Come"

The No-Things "Miracle Man" unreleased song from Edinburgh based band's forthcoming single

For full feature on the Hipsville Jungle-A-Go-Go weekend including photos and links to videos, please check the Blog feature here

Thee Girl Fridays "Too Much of a Good Thing" from their new digital E.P.

The Past Tense "The Other Side" from their new LP "7A"

OHMS "6-8-1-6-79 (For A City Boy)" from their new LP "Melodies of Our Lives". For a review of the album please check the Blog feature here

The Moot "Backs Me Down" from their new mini-album "Tomorrow's Calling"

Magnus Carlson with Fay Hallam "Now That It's Over" new single from the Swedish Soul singer's forthcoming album "A Nordic Soul" out soon on Cosmos Music

Fay Hallam & Magnus Carlson at The 100 Club - photo by Retro Man Blog
French Boutik "Loin de Moi" a brand new track to promote an Indiegogo fundraising campaign for the band's forthcoming album. For more information on how to pledge, please check here

For review of the Fay Hallam, Magnus Carlson & French Boutik gig at the 100 Club including photos and links to videos, please check out the Blog feature here

The Nettelles "We Are..." new Russ Wilkins produced limited edition 7" vinyl single on DJ Lee Grimshaw's Spinout Nuggets label

Dirt Royal "Glory Days" one side of the Brighton based band's new single

Ye Nuns "Don't Worry" new limited edition single from State Records featuring unreleased songs written by The Monks' original bassist Eddie Shaw.

Andre M "Kenzy's Dream" new 7" vinyl single released on Crocodile Records

You can listen/download directly from our Soundcloud page below or subscribe for free at iTunes or stream at our Mixcloud page. Lots of our original videos from the Hipsville Weekend and of most of the bands featured in this episode can be found over at our Retro Man Blog YouTube Channel here and there are lots of photos at our Facebook page here. Check out Gwen Ever's "A Low Life In High Heels" radio show on Mixcloud here for some reports from the Hipsville front-lines. Thanks to ZigPix for this Episode's cover photo. Please click on the highlighted links above for more information on the bands and how you can order the featured LP's or singles. I hope you enjoy listening!