Wednesday 25 October 2017

The SolarFlares 13th and 14th October at The Water Rats with Special Guests The Fallen Leaves, King Mojo, The Embrooks and DJ Lee Grimshaw

The SolarFlares photographed by Paul Slattery
I'd like to thank everyone that came along to our Retro Man Blog presents The SolarFlares reunion shows at The Water Rats, I really appreciate all the fantastic feedback and comments which goes to show you all seemed to enjoy it as much as we did! Amy Kilroy-Buck kindly contributed her thoughts on the weekend. "When the tickets have sold out before the poster is even printed, you know it's going to be a bit of a special gig. Originally a one off to coincide with the vinyl reissue of three albums on Damaged Goods, the gig quickly became a two off in order to meet the apparently insatiable demand of fans and tickets flew out at a pace that makes this Retro Man Blog's fastest selling event so far. I went to both nights (as one does) and it really was pretty spectacular. Friday night began with an excellent set from DJ Lee Grimshaw before The Fallen Leaves took to the stage. The Fallen Leaves ('no jeans, no t-shirts, no cover versions') are always a joy to watch, with their punchy, catchy songs and unashamedly theatrical delivery. You'll find no wasted notes or excessive noodling here, just good, old fashioned, tweed clad garage punk.

The Fallen Leaves photographed by Paul Slattery
Rob Symmons of The Fallen Leaves photographed by Paul Slattery
I've never seen The Solarflares live before (I was 18 when they split up and only just starting to develop any kind of taste in music), but I've been a regular at Forefathers gigs for quite some time now and, like many of the audience, I was interested to see just how different an all SF's set would be, and if the addition of the Hammond really made much difference overall. Right from the first song it became apparent that it really, really does. The squirly, wailing chords add another layer of sound to an already powerful mix, and it also meant we got treated to the instrumentals Lunar Girl, Moonshine of Your Love, Angel Interceptor, and my absolute favourite, Girl in a Briefcase. With an extensive back catalogue to choose from, the choice of songs on Friday night veered from the poignant (Mary) to the witty (Feet the Wrong Way Round) through to the downright groovy instrumentals via the occasional audience singalong (Miles Away).

Allan Crockford of The SolarFlares photographed by Paul Slattery
Graham Day & Wolf Howard of The SolarFlares photographed by Paul Slattery
The Solarflares really do have something for everyone, and the multiple encores on Friday night definitely gave the impression that the band were enjoying themselves too. One gig down, one to go, or, as Allan joked, 'thank you for coming to our rehearsal for tomorrow'. I've never been to see the same band in the same venue on two consecutive nights before, but on Saturday we shook off our hangovers and piled back into the Water Rats, ready for some more. Saturday's line up gave us two support bands, the first of whom, King Mojo, had made the 500 mile round trip from the frozen north beyond the wall (all right, Middlesbrough) to kick things off for a second night of music. I've seen King Mojo before on their home turf, and as a live band they really are dynamite, combining sharp, spiky song writing with class musicianship. Their EP Ironstoned is on my 'to be reviewed' stack, so more on them soon. Definitely ones to watch, and a great start to the night.

King Mojo - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
The Embrooks - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
My nearest and dearest will be well acquainted with my tendency to keep banging on about how much I love The Embrooks, but I can honestly say that this band alone would be worth the trip down to London, and if you haven't seen them yet, I urge you to do so. Their stage performances have a manic energy that make them captivating to watch, and their songs will rattle around in your head long after the gig is over. Saturday was already off to a great start, and it was time for more Solarflares. With one or two small changes to the set the band seemed a little more relaxed than the previous night, and soon got into their stride. The Water Rats is a fairly cosy venue, but I decided to fight my way down to the front, and it was well worth the effort.

Wolf Howard of The SolarFlares photographed by Paul Slattery
As on the previous night the sound was full and vibrant, but there was an extra veneer of confidence there and definitely no clues that this was a band that hadn't played together for a long time. The long established team of Graham Day, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard seem to have a collective sixth sense that we're used to seeing with The Forefathers, but the addition of Parsley on Hammond organ really did elevate this band to something pretty extraordinary. His playing is subtle and empathetic, and supports the guitar rather than fighting it. He's a snappy dresser too, and I hope we see him on stage again at another Retroman night in the future.

Parsley of The SolarFlares photographed by Paul Slattery
The Solarflares always talk about their band with great fondness, and Saturday's gig really did have the feel of a group of friends who were having a great time. The songs still sound new and fresh, and there's obviously some real affection from the audience. As the band came to the end of their final song, Graham leant his Gretsch Black Panther against his Vox and left the stage to a fanfare of self induced feedback. Allan dutifully switched off the amp as the band exited stage right to riotous cheers. The final encore of Father's Name Is Dad marked the end of a triumphant reformation for The Solarflares, and whether they do it again, or it remains a two off, it was a spectacular couple of nights for a few hundred people in Kings Cross." - AKB October 2017

Graham Day of The SolarFlares photographed by Paul Slattery
With thanks to Amy for the great review and to Paul Slattery for his superb photos as always. You can see more photos of all the bands over the two nights at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and some videos over at our YouTube channel here. There's also a great review of the Friday night show over on the always excellent Monkey Picks Blog which can be found here.

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