Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year to all members and fans of ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP. Thanks for all your support. See you in 2010, Toby

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The 2009 ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP Awards

2009 is the first full year of ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP's existence. For those who didn't know, it all started one autumnal evening early in October 2008. So it only seemed right that we celebrate the scene we have created for ourselves by presenting a series of awards for bands, venues and studios voted for by members of the network.

The presentations were made at The Hope & Anchor in Islington last week midway through the Xmas-Rock-Til-You-Drop gig. My good friend, AXE-FM DJ and respected RTYD member, Colin Gillman opened the envelopes, announced the winners and presented the awards.

There were five categories: Best Band, Best Song, Best CD, Best Rehearsal Studio and Best Venue. The winner in each category was to receive a solid oak coffin-shaped award with engraved plaque.

Ben Ellis collected the award for Best Rehearsal Studio on behalf of The Joint in King's Cross.

The award for Best Venue went to The Dublin Castle and was collected by Bugbear employee Marcie. Sorry, no pickie of Marcie.

The award for Best Song went to Punks Not Dad for the excellent and hilarious In Me Shed. Unfortunately, due to a severe weather warning that night in Wales the band were unable to play the gig. But Otto Pthrugg of 14 Carat Grapefruit was happy to accept the Coffin on their behalf, if only for the opportunity to publicly slag them off for being frightened of "a little bit of snow".

14 Carat Grapefruit won the award for Best CD with their brilliant LP Long Time Coming, which they have been generously distributing free to those who have attended their gigs this year. You can listen to some of it at the ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP-RECORDS store here.

The award for Best Band went to London covers-band Creak. Paul Rodger and Paul Stansfield, singer and drummer respectively, stepped up to collect the award on behalf of the whole band. Creak's line-up which was in a state of flux ealier this year has settled to include (another!) Paul on guitar, Vladi on lead and Pete on bass. The boys have worked very hard on the live circuit this year and are reaping the rewards now. They are even getting paid to play the occasional gig! I had the pleasure of seeing the boys play for RTYD earlier in the month and they certainly do put on a good show.

Next year, more categories, more awards, and sponsorship.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Toby
A little Xmas reading: Melvis Remembers Hendrix at Isle of Wight:

Sunday, 20 December 2009

14 Carat Grapefruit close the Xmas-Punk-Rock-Til-You-Drop gig

So we opened with the Stabilisers, then came the presentation of the 2009 RTYD Awards (news of this in the next post), which was followed by The Outbursts and that punch. Punch of the year. There's a new category of award for 2010; along with Man of the Year, as suggested by Colin Gillman, who of course aims to win that one.

And last up, finally, at gone 11pm comes the patient and slightly gig-weary 14 Carat Grapefruit. No band likes this slot, but they have to play it 'cos their bass player Lem has another commitment that evening which means he can't play an earlier slot. Whenever they play, they never disappoint though. According to Otto's recent blog on the gig, he forgot the words to the opening number, which was their very own Christmas song. Hilarious it is, of course. I didn't notice any cock-up. I, like many around me, was probably too busy laughing.

The audience has shrunk to a meagre ten or so people, but 14 Carat always don't seem to care. We don't either. We feel lucky.

This is the end of a busy year for The Grapefruit. Word is that they're gonna play a little less in the new year. But they tell me the experience of working so hard in 2009 has been beneficial to the band as a whole, and has also served to strengthen the commitment and conviction of those who may have felt any ambivalence about being a part of it.

The band run through all the faves. And try to leave the stage without Otto doing a rendition of I Got A Little List. He is not allowed to leave the legendary basement venue without delivering. And I am honoured to be included in his list of the loathsome, in my capacity as the promoter who puts his band on long after the majority of punters have begun their journeys home.

Otto kindly gives me an inflatable pink guitar that I bring home for my daughter. She is delighted. She takes it to primary school the next day and begins spreading the word about 14 Carat Grapefruit in the playground there. Imagine them doing matinee performances like The Pistols used to do for the school-age kids! There's a thought.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Stabilisers open the Xmas-Punk-Rock-Til-You-Drop night

It was a pleasure to have the Stabilisers open the Xmas-Punk-Rock-Til-You-Drop night on Thursday at the Hope & Anchor. Led by the charismatic Jon Stabiliser, they were playing for the first time in ten years or so with RTYD member Steve 'Istvanski' on guitar. Playing though a ginornous Line6 & Trace Elliot guitar rig, Istvanski played like his ten year solo career had never happened, and came on like a feedback-toting, Tooting and Mitcham-supporting Pete Townshend.

They kicked off with the hilarious I Feel Like Jimmy White, and 30 or so energetic-minutes later closed with the wonderful Piss. Their sound seemed to borrow from late-70s/early-80s US punk/new wave bands like the Ramones and the Dickies, as well as some of their British counterparts such as (early) XTC, and those legends of the Hope & Anchor, The Stranglers.

They bought a loyal following and generously handed out copies of their current 5-track CD. I hope to have them back in the New Year. Don't miss that show.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Punches fly as the spirit of '77 returns to the Hope & Anchor

Trouble broke out last night during The Outbursts' set at the Xmas-Punk-Rock-Til-You-Drop gig at the Hope & Anchor, recalling the days when young punk bands, such as the Stranglers and X-Ray Spex, dodged spit and beer glasses, playing in the same room to audiences of amphetamine and lager-fuelled teenagers. This, however, was grown men, mature musicians and music fans getting a little too carried away by the punk-Christmas-spirit of the occasion.

Not long into The Outbursts' set, some fairly good natured pogoing quickly developed into a bit of antagonistic argy-bargy, with members of 14 Carat Grapefruit being knocked around like pinballs by the Essex contingent who had clearly travelled to the gig to cause trouble. Where's Jimmy Pursey when you need him?

The tension built steadily during the performance but when the Outbursts' singer Ian Breslin's Persil-white bondage punk outfit was doused in red wine by one drunken member of the Trouble-Makers. This was the straw that broke The Outbursts' bass player's back. So, mid-song he calmly lifted off his bass, stepped down off the stage into the audience and made his way to the heart of the Trouble-Makers and lamped the culprit full in the face.

He then calmy returned to the business of making punk music, as if nothing had happened. Insults continued to fly between the band and the trouble-makers. Some further argy-bargy carried on, and looked like boiling over, until the Outbursts' bassman threatened to remove his instrument once again. This was enough to frighten the Trouble-Makers to retreat into a dark corner where they stood continuing to hurl harmless football terrace-style abuse, and to make jokes about red-red wine, until the end of the show.

'Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1977' declare The Outbursts on their MySpace page. They're not kidding.

More reviews and reportage from this excellent night of music, featuring The Stabilisers and 14 Carat Grapefruit, as well as news of the winners of the first ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP AWARDS 2009 in the next blogpost, coming shortly.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A band down

Batten down the hatches.

Unfortunately, a moment ago the skies were clear. It was bright and sunny. Now, though, the skies have darkened, the wind is up and there is a flurry of snow. Snow storms are forecast for the evening and morning. As is travel chaos, of course. The first casualty of this bad weather is the bill of tonight's Xmas-Punk-Rock-Til-You-Drop special at the Hope & Anchor, which will no longer include the wonderful Punks Not Dad, three-quarters of whom would have had to travel from Wales.

Still, as both Esther Rantzen and Sham 69 once said, "That's life".

The show will go on, thanks to The Stabilisers, The Outbursts and 14 Carat Grapefruit, and DJ Dog-Headed men. KO 8pm.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Xmas-Punk-RTYD tomorrow night (17th): 14 Carat Grapefruit, Punks Not Dad, The Outbursts, The Stabilisers. Hope & Anchor N1. Plus 2009 Awards

Monday, 14 December 2009

PunkRTYD presents: 14 Carat Grapefruit, Punks Not Dad, The Outbursts & The Stabilisers at the Hope & Anchor, N1, this Thursday (17th). 8pm.

The last RTYD acoustic afternoon of 2009

Another great afternoon was had by all those assembled at the Libertine on Sunday. The Lone Groover & Wonder Boy was the first of a number of acts making their second acoustic appearance for RTYD at the Libertine. They played another fine set, during which they debuted a great new tune, and watched their cappuccinos get cold.

Warren Meneely was electric; and acoustic; and on top form.

Michael Caines silenced the room with his witty picky ditties with added harmony courtesy of Vera Chok. And ended his set with a favourite of mine, his song about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Claire Gamble brought her guitar, her ukulele, her recorder and her friend Alex from Norfolk to accompany her, and was as a charming as ever.

The Libertine's own barman Chris Tirrell closed the afternoon with some acoustic psychedelica employing open-tuned guitars, a keyboard and a very old looking echo unit.

Great stuff. See you on Valentine's Day 2010.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Blues-Rock-Til-You-Drop at the Fiddlers

I have to confess I was dreading the soundcheck for the Blues-Rock-Til-You-Drop gig last night; 4 bands, 18 musicians. 1.5 hours. Guitarists plus-plus, Keyboard players times-two. It would have been a total nightmare, if Creak and Dove Jones hadn't boldly forfeited their soundchecks, the former due to the late arrival of their drummer, and the the latter because they are so used to a 'plug and play' approach to gigging.

Thanks to them then, the evening kicked off on time with Bang To Rights' whose take on the blues, included a great rock cover of You Keep Me Hanging On by Diana Ross, before it edged towards that less-well known sub-genre, disco-blues. And why not?

This got Creak thinking that now they were in, and once they were on, their version of the blues could follow this liberal view. Fairly well oiled, as a result of hanging around for about three hours to set foot on stage, they proceeded to romp through a set of blues-rock classics, throwing in the odd T-Rex number - in this case 20th Century Boy - and ending with their customary set-closer Creakin' All Over.

It is always a pleasure to watch my friend Dove Jones performing, and last night he was on fire as usual, offering up a set of blues-covers and throwing in an original at the end for good measure, appropriately entitled I Got The Blues. Imagine Mick Jagger fronting the Stones while playing keyboards and sweating like Joe Cocker at Woodstock, and you get an idea of the energy and passion of Jones's semi-sedentary performance.

It's 11 o'clock before the final act of the night take to the stage. Unfortunately, the room empties by half. It's not personal. It's just bed-time for many of those here, including The Beast. But those who exit don't know what they are about to miss. The Beast come on stage after a twenty year break and play the loudest, ballsiest, filthiest rock set I've heard in a while, crossing the vocals and drums of Led Zep with the dirty blues riffola of early AC/DC.

With 22 paying customers, 18 musicians, 10 or so non-paying barfly regulars, one of which tells me "at last we got some decent music in 'ere", and a few WAGs who blag their way in, there were enough people at the gig that the place wasn't rattling; a handful were even dancing at points during the evening, which was great.

So it was not a great night door-takings-wise. Bar-takings-wise, maybe? But I'm not out of pocket, which is good, and the whole night is worth it simply because it is both a musicians' social-networking opportunity and a chance to hear some great music and see some great musicians play. It was a chance too for some of those who know each other on-line to meet in the real world.

Patrick Begley of the Dipsticks comes down to support his former band-mates, Toby and John from The Beast, and in the process ran into a former brother-in-law, who is drumming for Bang To Rights. Small world. I put two and two together and realise that Maggie Brown for whom Mark McKendrick of the Dipsticks plays bass occasionally, is the backing singer in Dove Jones' band. Small world, again. Stephen Denholm and John from local blues band The Mighty Caretakers are also in attendance. You'll be seeing more of these two in the new year.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

RTYD presents: The Beast, Dove Jones, Creak & Bang To Rights at the Fiddler's Elbow, Chalk Farm, tomorrow night (Weds). 8pm KO. A fiver in.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Pocket Rocket and the Dipsticks at the Libertine

You can always judge a gig by the way you feel the next day.

But before I let you know how I feel, I’d like to thank the Dipsticks for bringing their hardcore fans and for playing a very enjoyable set last night. I’m starting to get to know their songs now. And I really like those guys. If only all bands were as pleasant and likeable and easy to deal with as those guys. Hopefully, 2010 will bring a Dipsticks recording. Unfortunately, though, last night was drummer Angie’s last appearance with the band. Angie has a commitment to study next year. We will all miss her.

Thanks too to Colin Gillman, his new bass man 'Dave' and Stabiliser guitarist Istvanski for coming out to see Pocket Rocket.

At least three-quarters of Pocket Rocket thought last night's performance at The Libertine was mediocre. On the face of it, out front, I'm sure it sounded fine. Maybe in this respect our performance was a good one.

In the heads of a few of us though, all is not ‘fine’.

Because we know it could be so much better. I’m not going to carry on about the lack of rehearsal (thank god for that! – Ed) but this is obviously still an issue.

Our enjoyment of the gig is affected by a bad on-stage sound. Out front the sound is very good in the Libertine. There is a vocal PA but there are no monitors on-stage. Our drummer can't hear my lead vocal very well at all. All our drummer hears is the few BV howlers that emanate from his stage left. I must push the venue to get at least one fold-back monitor.

I can't hear my fucking guitar AGAIN! I might as well not be playing. I do play, but I feel like I could easily just turn it off and mime it. The thing about this is that it gets me thinking about whether the two guitars are complementary enough. We would certainly miss the lead breaks. But during the verses and choruses are we simply muddying the sound by basically doubling up the guitar-parts. In a bigger venue, through a bigger PA, you can split the guitars more successfully but in a small pub, with a small PA, you're better off with one guitarist. The Dipsticks have one guitar and sound great. I am envious of the 'room' and ‘definition’ in their sound.

I don't want to turn my guitar up 'cos I can only just hear my vocal. I am straining AGAIN to hear myself on stage, though I am at least aware that I can be heard loud and clear out front. I put my faith in this.

I was guilty of starting at least a couple of songs too slowly. I think I know why, but I'm not gonna make excuses.

Our drummer, who is under untold pressure and stress at the moment, and is clearly finding it hard to enjoy anything at present, handles my newly ballad-paced Teenage Dream very well. He could probably have done without a 'mediocre' gig, and a two hour drive to it, tonight. It doesn't help that we've rehearsed once in three weeks (careful! - Ed), and that that rehearsal was without our lead guitarist. The set isn't second nature. It should be but it isn't.

You can always judge a gig by the way you feel the next day.

I am lucky to have a band, I know. I should just accept the band for what it is? Accept that it is as good as it can be considering the level of commitment towards it by its members. But I can't. I want it to be so much better? Unfortunately, there are issues that need resolving. I always hope they will resolve themselves, or time will resolve them, but of course this doesn't happen. Rehearsal... consistency.. backing vocals...guitar volumes...all these things and more need to be addressed.

After two and a half years, playing most of these songs should be a walk in the park? Why aren't we more consistent? Why do we still struggle to get some of these songs right? I am tired of half of these songs, yet some of them still aren't right.

I am lucky to have a band, I know.

So here’s a plan. We don't gig early next year. We put some new songs together, to freshen things up. We rehearse regularly ie: every fortnight - let’s be realistic – at a rehearsal studio and at a rate we can afford; On a night that we can all make it! We get a new set togther. We play it 'til it's second nature. We talk openly about the 'issues', and engage with each other more in performance.

I am lucky, I just wish I felt even more lucky this morning.

Read about Trisha McNair's 'function band' experience in R-T-Y-D:

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Pocket Rocket is my Blur

Went to see Graham Coxon's Power Acoustic Ensemble last night at the Barbican. Sounds pretentious doesn't it? Well, it wasn't that bad, actually. Coxon is too modest, shy and self-conscious to be pretentious. I see the irony once the show begins.

The wife got the tickets. It's not the sort of gig that I would have bought tickets for. I'm not a big pop-rock peer-envy, and some grumpy contrariness associated with this indifference, 'cos of course I'd kill for the opportunity to put on a show like this; to be able to call up Robyn Hitchcock and ask him to play second guitar for me. It would have been nice to have made a contribution too, wouldn't it? I am green with envy. It's less obvious when the lights go down.

Despite being a seated gig, it was pretty good. My wife does know me. Actually, standing through it would have been too much. It's hard enough standing for two hours at a rock gig, these days. So I had a beer and sporadically drifted off into musical daydreams. Which is the way I most enjoy gigs. They are still a chance to dream.

I've not been inspired to listen to Graham Coxon's solo stuff up to now. I saw his band in Finsbury Park a few years back and wasn't that impressed, so I have turned a blind eye ever since. But he's clearly been practicing (How patronising does that sound? - Ed). I wish I could pick like that. He plays a mean folk guitar these days. His voice lacks character and dynamics, but he writes and arranges well. The influences of Bowie and Syd Barret are obvious, and I can hear a little Julian Cope and some Nick Drake in tonight's material. I'm sure his influences are much more purist-folk than these - the programme confirms this - but this is my uninitiated opinion. I'm only strong on bastardisations of traditional forms of music. I don't do the real thing. Call me a philistine, because it'd probably be fair.

I was inspired though. I'd love to get a 'unit' (as Dove calls it) like this together. It's very English. A bit quirky. A bit discordant. Pocket Rocket isn't doing enough to keep me sated. Logistically, financially Pocket Rocket can only do so much.

That makes Pocket Rocket, my Blur. I said the gig was a chance to dream, didn't I?

I could start by dusting down and re-programming The Phantom Limb. If it's gonna be a sedentary gig, I don't need a real drummer. Not to begin with anyway. I could start performing and pick up musicians as I go, just as I did with Pocket Rocket, in the early days.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Dipsticks play the Constitution, 42 St Pancras Way, NW1, this Friday (27th) 9pm:

Monday, 23 November 2009

Jay Stapley writes about what it means to be a 'pop' musician early in the 21st century, exclusively for R-T-Y-D:

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Friday, 20 November 2009

14 Carat Grapefruit go down like a led zeppelin

Not the band, but the airship made of lead.

The early part of my Thursday evening was spent reminiscing and projecting in the company of Patrick Begley of the Dipsticks at the Spread Eagle pub in Camden, which was a pleasure, and then it was up to the The Enterprise in Chalk Farm, where 14CG were playing for LondonTourdates. I hadn't set foot upstairs there for over 10 years. It now has a stage with lights and a small PA. With its red velvet curtains, I felt a bit like walking into a scene from a David Lynch movie. The band playing as I walk in are Eights 'n' Aces. As in Guns 'n' Roses, and The New York Dolls. They are great if a little too in-yer-face for such an intimate space.

After an interview for LondonTourdates, 14CG take the stage and open with the a cappella Costas. It was clear from the off, that they, those few gathered here, weren't getting it. Now I can't understand how you can see 14 Carat Grapefruit as anything other than hilarious. But they could. I was laughing; Ande and Andy, of Milk Roar and Probing Cranks, respectively, were laughing. And we've heard the jokes numerous times before. But much of the room was not. The awkward silences between songs didn't help, as these left room for Otto's newest admirer to voice her disapproval of what she apparently considered to be racist and sexist lyrical content.

My guess is that Olive from On The Buses as she was dubbed by the band, doesn't care to know about 14CG's appearance at the Xmas Punk-Rock-Til-You-Drop night at the Hope & Anchor on 17th December. Just a guess.