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.

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