Thursday 5 December 2013

Graham Day & The Forefathers at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club November 29th with The Aardvarks & Higher State

Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
Tonight's gig at the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club was promoted by Phil Moore from Shindig! Magazine and his Sweet But Deadly Promotions. Phil was also the DJ for the night and he played some cool sounds to get everyone in the mood for what would turn out to be the undoubted gig of the year. The opening act, The Aardvarks, were one of the leading lights of the mid to late Eighties London "Paisley Underground" scene along with The Onlookers and The Playn Jayn, and regulars at the sorely missed Hammersmith Clarendon. The band recently got back together to promote the release of an excellent anthology CD on Cherry Red Records called "Sinker, Line and Hook". The line-up of the Pietronave brothers, Gary on lead vocals and Mark on guitar, drummer Ian O'Sullivan (who, before this reunion was playing in Retro Man Blog favourite's The Fallen Leaves) and bassist Jason Hobart are augmented by ex-Solarflares keyboard player Parsley and they played a well received set of tracks from the album interspersed by some well chosen cover versions.

The Aardvarks by Paul Slattery
My highlights were "The Office Number 1", the powerful blast of "Buttermilk Boy" and the funky riffing of the Sharon Tandy/Fleur de Lys classic "Hold On". They have a sound more akin to the Bluesy Sixties sound of bands such as The Creation, The Yardbirds and The Sorrows and you can close your eyes and almost be transported back in time to Eel Pie Island. They close with covers of Wimple Winch's "Save My Soul" and The Easybeats "Sorry" and get a great round of applause. It's not clear yet how much longer the band are going to continue with their reunion but on tonight's evidence it would be a shame if they were to call it a day for a second time.

The Higher State by Paul Slattery
Next up are The Higher State, a band made up of members of some top quality outfits such as The Mystreated, The Embrooks and Groovy Uncle. There's also Paul Messis on bass, an accomplished singer songwriter in his own right (and another ex-member of those Fallen Leaves). They play an authentic brand of jangly Rickenbacker West Coast folk rock which has echoes of the Byrds and The Flamin' Groovies. Unfortunately the poor sound from the P.A. doesn't do the vocals or complexities of the songs justice and I don't really connect with the band until quite late in their set with the excellent "Know That You Know", which has a melody that has stuck in head for days. Still, I have since checked out some of the bands records which have really impressed me, and I will definitely try and get to see them play again as soon as possible.
Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
There's often a dilemma for prolific songwriters where they want their audience to appreciate their new music and not be distracted by past achievements, or maybe they just get sick and tired of playing the same songs over and over. I can sort of understand how a songwriter must feel if they are trying to promote something new that they are really passionate about, only to get constantly badgered about the past, it must grate somewhat. But of course, as a music fan I also want to hear all my old favourites at gigs and often the dreaded phrase "now for some new songs" is the chance to sneak off for a pee or get a pint. The music journalist Mark Ellen once told of his favourite audience heckle where a band (I can't remember which) were boring their audience rigid with a set of new material and someone right at the front kept shouting out loudly "Play some old!"

Graham Day by Paul Slattery
But tonight there were certainly no hang-ups about acknowledging former glories, far from it, the set list was a veritable fan's dream. After all, Graham Day's latest band The Forefathers, are basically set up, not just to celebrate and enjoy the past as much as to drag it screaming and brutally revitalized into the present. Seeing Graham Day take the stage to a packed-to-the-rafters Bethnal Green Working Men's Club and fire straight into The Prime Movers "The Good Things", with it's raw power down on the streets Stooges riff, it's hard to believe that he was rumoured to have sold off his guitars and packed in music all together. The Forefathers are a trio, with Graham joined by his long time colleagues Allan Crockford on bass and Wolf Howard on drums. Away from The Forefathers Allan takes centre stage in his own mighty fine Psychedelic Garage Rock band Galileo 7, where he is singer, songwriter and guitarist. Tonight, his fluid bass lines cover for the lack of familiar organ riffs and drummer Wolf propels the songs along at a breakneck pace.

Wolf Howard and Allan Crockford by Paul Slattery
I wasn't a huge fan of The Prime Movers and in fact "The Good Things" is the only track from that period, but for me (as any regular listeners to Retrosonic Podcast will know) the sheer quality of The Solarflares output  almost eclipsed The Prisoners in it's brilliance. So, it's no surprise that the majority of the set is crammed with Prisoners and Solarflares songs. In fact the mood in the crowd becomes almost transcendental as classic song after classic song is blasted out one after the other. "Better In Black" and "Creepy Crawlies" from The Prisoners debut album "A Taste of Pink!" get the crowd pumped up and then a crunching take of The Solarflares "You Want Blood" ratchets up the atmosphere even more. Things momentarily calm down for the excellent "You Always Find a Way To Hurt", before the classic "Whenever I'm Gone" is greeted by a huge cheer. The Small Faces influence shines through on "Be On Your Way" and then it's the mighty "Hurricane", the first track of the night from the faultless "The Wisermiserdemelza" album. But it's an adrenaline-fuelled fuzzed up "Sucking Out My Insides" that is one of my highlights of the set, quite brilliant.

Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
The set ends with an absolutely blazing "Get Off My Track" by The Gaolers, it's so powerful that it prompts Past Tense vocalist Andy to leap onto the stage and attempt, what must be the politest stage dive in history. I thought Graham might belt Andy with his guitar but instead a smile flickers across his face. Rock photographer, Paul Slattery who witnessed and photographed many early Prisoners gigs just looks amazed, shaking his head and mouthing "fantastic!" at me. Right through the set The Aardvark's organ remains tantalisingly untouched at the side of the stage until Parsley, now decked out in what looks like a bacofoil spacesuit, gets up and takes the controls for a blistering run through of The Gaolers instrumental "Sitar Spangled Banner".

Face In the Crowd - Graham Day by Paul Slattery
Hoping the organ will get a bit more use, people around me scream out for The Prisoners "Reaching My Head" but Graham shoots them down, "Just 'cos we got an organ on stage, don't get stupid" Parsley steps down and the trio slam into "Coming Home" which is followed by the wonderfully melodic "I Am The Fisherman". Then there is a nice off-the-cuff touch as Graham disregards the set-list and gives us "Reaching My Head" after all. The set is bought to a climatic end with a punked-up "Melanie" which lifts the roof off the BGWMC and as we sadly realize that's the lot, a sea of smiling satisfied faces make their way to the exit. There was quite a tangible buzz in the air as friends hug each other on the way out and strangers exchange glances and excited chatter about what a truly special gig they'd just witnessed.

Ian, Gary & Jason of The Aardarks by Paul Slattery
Parsley by Paul Slattery
Mark Pietronave of The Aardvarks by Paul Slattery
The Higher State by Paul Slattery
The Higher State by Paul Slattery
Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
All photos strictly copyright Paul Slattery 2013 and may not be shared or used without prior consent.

For more photos of the gig please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit "Like" for access to the gig Photo Album. Here's a video of Graham Day & The Forefathers with "Get Off My Track", for lots more videos of the night check out the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here.

We've also played lots of Graham Day tracks, along with The Aardvarks, Galileo 7 and loads more similar acts in various episodes of Retrosonic Podcast, they are free to download too...! Check out our Soundcloud site and have a trawl through the archives, hope you enjoy!

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