|TV Smith and admirer - Photo by Paul Hughes|
It’s no wonder that TV Smith has gone on record as saying Southend-on-Sea’s Railway Hotel is one of his favourite venues in the U.K. to play. They are a great match, both without huge (if any) financial backing but both tirelessly fighting their respective creative corners as true individuals in a sea of soulless branded chain venues and an equally soulless music industry. The Railway’s managers, Fi and Dave, put on a bewildering array of eclectic musical acts of all genres, along with film screenings and parties, often free or with a minimal cover-the-costs entrance fee such as this gig’s bargain ticket price of just £3.00. Tonight is a perfect example of what they offer, downstairs in the bar, Steve Hooker is entertaining the drinkers with his raw Rockabilly songs, augmented by a snare drummer, double bass and harmonica, it creates a lively buzz and is a perfect warm up for the night’s main event. This event is actually another joint get together with Retro Man Blog, Podrophenia DJ’s Piley & Mondo and Steve Pegrum’s excellent Southend Punk web-site for a night of great live music, DJ sets and of course a severe bout of boozing and socialising.
|Eight Rounds Rapid by Paul Hughes|
I was really pleased that we could get local band Eight Rounds Rapid to open the show, I have been really impressed with what I have heard from them, and we received quite a few glowing comments after we played their last single “Channel Swimmer” in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 7. They have also started to get much wider recognition from respected BBC DJ’s Gideon Coe, Steve Lamacq and also David Quantick amongst others as well as some high profile shows supporting Wilko Johnson at London’s Koko. Now, here’s the thing. It’s very difficult to talk about Eight Rounds Rapid without mentioning Wilko Johnson, not just because they are both based in Southend but mainly due to the fact that guitarist Simon is Wilko’ s son. It might not be so apparent when listening to their recorded work, but live, Simon’s hugely impressive staccato guitar playing and his onstage mannerisms, although not quite as wired as Wilko’s, are cut from the same black-suited cloth.
|Eight Rounds Rapid by Paul Hughes|
It’s also nice to see Wilko in the crowd tonight and he catches up with TV Smith and Steve Hooker, who he has recorded with in the past, as well as politely and patiently chatting to lots of awestruck punters. But despite that, Eight Rounds Rapid have forged their own idiosyncratic sound and are refreshingly very difficult to pin down – it’s a style that I guess could be said to almost divide opinion. With front man David’s deadpan delivery and half-spoken vocals, which are firmly rooted in A-House, Art Brut, Blue Aeroplanes territory, they challenge the expected norms of what a “Rock” band should be. They also occasionally remind me of Wire’s art project approach to being in a band, where they push the boundaries and limits between melody and noise, of what’s pleasantly catchy and what can grate and challenge the listener. It’s not to be filed under easy listening that’s for sure. But live they truly excel tonight, and Eight Rounds Rapid conjure up a powerfully hypnotic force on their slightly sinister little gems such as “Dostoevsky”, “Steve” and “Channel Swimmer”.
|Wilko Johnson and son Simon from Eight Rounds Rapid by Paul Hughes|
The superb rhythm section of drummer Lee and bassist Jules lock in together perfectly and it’s nice to see a real onstage chemistry. It’s only on the swaggering bluesy beast of "My Mate" and a new song “I Want a Drink”, where that legendary rough Thames Estuary R’n’B sound comes to the fore and bassist Jules’ fluid runs bring to mind Norman Watt-Roy. They are called back for a well deserved encore and power through the new single “Writeabout” which was very generously part funded by tonight’s Radio Podrophenia DJ team of Dave Collins and Ian Pile, long-time staunch supporters of the band and evidently men of great taste!
|TV Smith by Paul Hughes|
And then it’s time for TV Smith to take the stage to a warm reception from his loyal Southend fans. Armed only with his acoustic guitar he has emerged as a kind of Punk Rock folk troubadour in the grand tradition. He is a globe-trotting story-teller with topical protest songs full of a barbed yet humorous satire on modern life. It’s a life fraught with the issues of Globalisation, Surveillance, Corruption, Capitalism and well…the perils of Xmas…! For TV Smith’s sometime cynical and world-weary tales are not just aimless diatribes against “the Man” but often moving and perfectly drawn personal observations that many people can easily relate to. It’s politics of the individual, he’s not bashing you around the head with a “down with this sort of thing” placard, but he is opening eyes and ears to various issues that mean a lot to him.
There are various dimensions to his approach too, he can use humour in different guises to make his point, whether it’s the less-than-subtle laugh out loud attack on festive consumerism in “Xmas Bloody Xmas” or on the clever wordplay of “It’s Expensive Being Poor”. On songs like “The Day We Caught the Big Fish” and “Generation Y” subjects such as nuclear submarines accidently sinking fishing vessels and the recent trend for youthful apathy towards politics, are wrapped up in sublime melancholic songs that force you to think as you sing along. There’s Punky aggression on “Coming Into Land” and of course a rich back catalogue of songs to be plundered such as “We Who Wait”, “New Church” and “No Time To Be 21”. Promising new songs from the next album are also aired, and these include tonight’s set opener “The First One To Sign Up", "Replay" and a song that turns out to be one of my highlights of the set and a sure-fire future classic called “I Delete”.
|TV Smith at The Railway by Paul Hughes|
We get the hilarious “Complaints Department”, the moving “The Lion and The Lamb” and a superb version of one of my favourite songs “You Saved My Life Then Ruined It” and it just goes to show the depth of TV Smith's song-writing. At one point he snaps a string on his guitar and then launches into an off-the-cuff performance of Cheap's “My String Will Snap" which goes down really well. For the encore we are treated to three classic Adverts songs “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes”, “Bored Teenagers” and a raucous “One Chord Wonders” – where TV invites The Railway’s soundman Duncan up on stage to join him on vocals. Duncan sings in local band Swindle and although he looks a bit bashful for, oh all of 10 seconds, he soon throws himself into the task with a huge grin while the now traditional Railway stage invasion takes place around him. It’s all over and time for TV to relax and chat to fans by his merchandise stall, a time that he always seems to relish. Then we retire back down to the bar to enjoy DJ’s Piley and Mondo’s excellent music and soak up the atmosphere of another great night at The Railway. I’d like to thank Tim, Eight Rounds Rapid, Fi, Dave, Heather, Duncan and the staff at The Railway, Steve Pegrum from Southend Punk, Dave and Ian from Podrophenia and to Paul Hughes for the excellent photos. Of course a huge “thank you” to all who came along and for all the encouragement and support. Cheers!
|Soundman Duncan with TV Smith by Paul Hughes|
TV Smith has a brand new album “The Acoustic Sessions Volume 1” out now along with volume four of his highly entertaining Tour Diaries entitled “To Heligoland and Beyond”. Eight Rounds Rapid new single “Writeabout” is available on Podrophenia Records as a limited edition 7” vinyl. Check out Podrophenia for their regular radio shows and Podcasts. Southend Punk is an excellent archive and resource and forthcoming events at The Railway Hotel can be found here.
|TV Smith and Wilko Johnson by Paul Hughes|
|Podrophenia DJ Mondo entertains the packed Railway bar by Paul Hughes|
|Eight Rounds Rapid by Paul Hughes|
|Piley in the pulpit - DJ Ian Pile by Steve Worrall|
|The customary Railway stage invasion - Photp by Paul Hughes|
More of Paul Hughes’ excellent photos can be found at his Flickr site. More videos of Eight Rounds Rapid and TV Smith from the night are up on the Retro Man Blog You Tube channel now.
Finally, don't forget our Retrosonic Podcast special edition with TV Smith which includes an in-depth interview and exclusive acoustic session featuring four classic songs.