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Rockaway Beach 2019, Butlin's, Bognor Regis - Part Two

Photographs by Steven Velentzas

The Saturday headline slot was filled by the obvious big draw of electronic/industrial pioneer Gary Numan. Various t-shirts from past tours were in evidence throughout the camp all day and people we chatted with had seen him anything up to a dozen times since he started out. Anticipation was naturally high and it’s fair to say that there was little room for disappointment. ‘Are Friends Electric?’ was rather too industrialised (with the quiet passages being almost acapella) but aside from that the material both old and new was delivered in consummate fashion. Certainly a pleasing show if, like me, you’d never seen him before.

Sunday saw us starting early again to see Squid at Noon. And well worth it they were too. An eclectic, Parquet Courts-influenced (or I’m a Dutchman) quintet, they had bags of energy and a lot to say about houseplants and older movie icons. Too-short trousers were in evidence again (something, along with moron antennae, the general age of the crowd thankfully means few of) but musically they manage a sound beyond their years & so should hopefully gain wider acclaim as 2019 progresses.

Post-Sunday roast the earlier momentum was somewhat lost by the pedestrian Yassassin. They were making all the right musical noises but I failed to engage. Lorelle Meets The Obsolete were as good as expected but still rather too dreamy to hold my attention for long, particularly when a good seat couldn’t be found. Standing up for shoegaze isn’t as fun as it used to be.

Rounding off the shows in the smaller hall tonight was another first sighting for me – Luke Haines. Given the equipment littering the stage for the bulk of the weekend it was almost a shock to see him there with just his guitar, to deliver songs about “wrestlers, terrorism & Peter Sutcliffe”. But deliver them he did, to the obvious enjoyment of the numerous fans in attendance. Merriment ensued at one point when, having merely raised his arm to illustrate a point in a song, he broke off to assure us he'd not been attempting a Nazi salute & then had to be reminded where in the song he’d been, all the time laughing at what an odd moment he’d just given us all. Not a manner in which you’ll often see acts trip themselves up.

Eddie Argos had been watching Luke Haines although the arm incident wasn’t something he included when mentioning the fact later on upstairs. ‘Cult Band’ was the song being introduced at the time, the inference being that Haines is a cult figure. Which seems fair to me. Art Brut were the third of this weekend’s acts I’d previously not seen but was keen to and they were on the bill in just the right spot. Whipping the crowd up, despite a rather long bit of waffle during ‘We Formed A Band’ and another later on when Eddie dithered about the stage wondering whether to get into the pit or not (he did eventually then regretted it) they were on point and got the crowd bouncing along, with the newer material  from Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! sitting comfortably alongside the older songs. His Mum would have been proud.

 

Echo & The Bunnymen were the final act of the weekend. Still arriving onstage to the accompaniment of Gregorian chants they're clearly back in love with their own material as there was none of the cover version malarkey from the same event four years ago (although apparently some random Doors lyrics were bandied about later in the set) so the adoring fans were well served. And that was it for another year. The Jesus And Mary Chain have already been announced as the main headliner in 2020 so get booking and start the year of perfect vision in fine aural style as well.  

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Rockaway Beach 2019, Butlins, Bognor Regis - Part One

Photographs by Steven Velentzas

Hogmanay’s but a dim memory so it’s time for the first festival of the year. With temperatures high enough that a jacket’s largely superfluous this time Bognor Regis once again proves that it makes sense to head South in January for Rockaway Beach.

Having broken the journey up this time with a London overnight (during which it has to be noted that the excellent Feet were seen live at The Shacklewell Arms. An ideal act for a daytime slot at RB2020) we arrived in good time for dinner rather than rushing in to drop luggage and then try to catch some of whatever performance started at 7pm, as has been the case in the past. Slow time arrival is definitely the way forward.

First up then were Madonnatron, a perfectly decent early afternoon act who suffered from looking a bit bored and not really being that engaging musically. Benin City were unfortunately even less to my taste so dinner was sought out with the hope that the much anticipated Goat Girl would open the evening’s proceedings in good form and the event would finally take off.

Sadly they appeared to be off form and going through the motions, rather than the lively shot in the arm which was required & which you’d have easily been forgiven for expecting if you’ve ever heard them on the radio. Cutting our losses at this point (having never been Maximo Park fans) we called it a night.

Having a pal along this time around meant there was encouragement to give the earlier acts of the day a look on Saturday, so it was that the heavy sounds of John J. Presley were taken in. An impressively weighty trio, suffering only from the Rhodes & whatever device was atop it not coming through much in the mix they, and later act Desert Mountain Tribe provided good, full-on sets of a vaguely gothic rock which certainly whetted the appetites of those who saw them.

Band merchandise was a bit thin on the ground this year but The Spook School, as well as turning in their usual fast, energetic & witty performance, certainly got top marks for their t-shirt designs and keen pricing. Good to spot them later on being punters too. They were followed up by Leeds’ Menace Beach, the first of a number of acts utilising A LOT of equipment. Questionable trouser choices aside theirs was another no nonsense and engaging performance, ably replicating their recorded work & then some.

Rounding off the Reds shows for today were Atlantean quartet Algiers who complimented their array of store-bought equipment with what looked to be a guitar body with a couple of snare cables fastened to it, for use both as something to be stamped on as well as beaten. Pretty effective it was too. This was probably the most energetic & emotionally charged set of the afternoon and, whilst I’ve been advised they’re less accessible on album, they are definitely an act you should try to catch in a small venue if you get the chance.

 

Barry Adamson opened up the Centre Stage tonight and his ease & knack with the crowd was a pleasure to witness. His private detective/film noir schtick isn’t for everyone though and, lovely bloke though he obviously is, I took a walk after a few songs as none of it was really reaching me. Next up the scheduling was a bit awry, placing as it did Halifax’s Orielles in between Adamson & the headliner. They performed admirably (certainly more in keeping with expectations than Goat Girl) and clearly had fun doing so but their sound’s rather too light to build on what went before & amply set the mood for what was to come. What their inclusion did do though was further highlight how well the festival gets the gender balance right, with a great number of acts including one or more women, something other events should definitely be taking note of.

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Reza Yazdani, Milad Tower, Tehran

Reza Yazdani, one of the most prominent Iranian rock stars, staged a special concert of “20-years with Reza Yazdani” on Friday December 14 with a unique performance at the Milad Tower in Tehran.

Met with an enthusiastic reception by the audience the show was extended for a second time due to the large number of fans who failed to attend the concert because the tickets sold out fast.

As with all  of his concerts Yazdani closed out the night with a performance of 'The Persian Gulf', which always has the crowd on their feet and singing along as a kind of unofficial national anthem.

During his 20 years in the music business Yazdani has recorded ten albums & all of these were represented in the set-list of this career retrospective event.

This popular singer's domestic and foreign concert tours will start again at the beginning of 2019 and his new album, which, according to him and its producer, Ali Oji, will be a different and unique album will also get a release very soon.

Reza Yazdani, born in 1973, is an Iranian singer, actor, composer, music arranger, guitar player and songwriter who has enjoyed a lot of popularity since he entered music, where for many years he has been considered as one of the two top Iranian rock singers.

His unique voice and excellent performance can be pointed out as features, which distinguish him from others.

While in Iran, most of the rock music fans are young people, Reza Yazdani has fans of all ages from children upwards and for years he has been standing at the position of the topmost and most popular rock singers in Iran.

Along with his recording work he has acted in and composed for several films and the theatre and has won credible music awards in Iran for the best rock album and music piece.

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Courtney Barnett, Northumbria University, Newcastle

With Tell Me How You Really Feel already riding high in many album of the year lists, Courtney Barnett has undoubtedly had a stellar year. Tonight is the closing night of a two month stint on the road in support of said album and spirits are high in Newcastle. Laura Jean opens the show with a somewhat different set to that which you may have expected from someone who usually has a full backing band. Instead Jean is accompanied by an “AI version of her band” in the form of a sampler. Alongside this though the multi instrumentalist constantly switches between keyboards and saxophone, her songs are delicate and her voice particularly sweet.

However, the lack of the band is all too obvious in part of her set. These otherwise full and exciting songs feel somewhat hollow on this occasion, other than that though Jean is a captivating performer with all the banter and quirks to keep this audience entertained. Similar sentiments apply to the brilliant Courtney Barnett who soon follows, opening with 'Hopefulness'. It’s a subdued opening but this is short lived as Barnett and her band quickly hit their stride with 'City Looks Pretty'.

From here the excitement and the riffs are swiftly escalated, with huge singalongs for 'Avant Gardener' and 'Nameless, Faceless' quickly following. Barnett is on top form thrashing around the stage in ecstatic fashion, alongside all of this the content of her songs really succeeds in the live arena. The likes of 'l’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch' and 'Depreston' feel particularly poignant. Barnett is a wonderful songwriter and her depth and her willingness to address issues that are all too commonly avoided is to be commended. This truly shows through in this awesome set.

Almost every song resonates with the majority of this crowd, take 'Are You Looking After Yourself?' for example, whether you’re the person checking in with someone or the person being checked in with it’s most likely we’ve all been on one side of this song. As Barnett closes out her main set with rousing renditions of 'History Eraser' and 'Pedestrian At Best', you cannot help but be bowled over by her brilliance and it is clear why Tell Me How You Really Feel has to be lauded in the way in which it has.

Barnett returns alone to play a wonderful cover of Gillian Welch’s 'Everything Is Free', before ending this leg of her tour in emphatic fashion with 'Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party'. Rounding off an epic set, Barnett’s songwriting is the real star of the show coupled with her exceptional guitar skills, there is something truly special about tonight’s show!

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Supersuckers, Bannerman's, Edinburgh

 

Seeing a band for the first time in 20+ years, all manner of expectations/concerns run through your mind in the lead up. Discovering the act in question is now operating as a trio rather than a quartet, for one thing, is bound to make you question how particular songs are going to sound. Given also the numerous personnel changes experienced in the second half of the unit's 30 year existence, with only one original member in the line-up, anything is possible with such a Trigger's broom of a band.

Singer Eddie Spaghetti has had a bad time of it over the past 18 months or so, culminating in treatment for throat cancer. That and the hard living which may have contributed to it no doubt go some way to explaining why the vocals tonight initially sound like two Lemmy impersonators have taken to the stage. The sound mix is also rather muddy for the first few songs so in combination it’s pretty hard to tell what’s being performed, other than lead single ‘The History Of Rock 'N' Roll' from current album Suck It. Add to that the not-much-above-plodding pace of the initial part of the set and the times when a second guitar would be an obvious boon & it’s looking like this dip into nostalgia has been a bad idea.

Yet, at what has been the best filled show I’ve been at in the past month (including the theatre), I’m clearly in the minority in being here for a trip down memory lane. Those who’ve followed the band more religiously than I since the ‘90s aren’t lacking in enthusiasm & this, coupled with an improvement in the mix and, for my part, the inclusion of a few more recognisable songs, turn things around handsomely as the 30 minute mark is passed. Even the schtick about being “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world” doesn’t seem tired.

Songs old and new follow thick and fast, with a preference for numbers from The Evil Powers Of Rock ‘N’ Roll and including Thin LizzyMerle Haggard covers. Thankfully they steer clear of country tunes other than that, the interest in that having lost its novelty for me a long time ago.

Second album La Man Cornuda is the one I could never really see past & so it’s what I’ve continually measured the band against. Performing ‘Creepy Jakalope Eye’ from it at half speed is therefore a major crime in the latter half of the show. Third album The Sacrilicious Sounds Of … is weak in comparison but does contain ‘Born With A Tail’ and, in closing with that in rousing fashion my earworm for the following day was assured. A show then of notable ups & downs but, at least on Spaghetti’s part, after 30 years in the one job how many of the rest of us maintain full consistency of performance?  

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Deer Tick, Whelan's, Dublin

 

It’s Deer Tick’s first visit to Ireland in four years. The band are due on at 21:15 but after the support act, Joanna Barbera, plays the lights go out. It seems like it’s a very specific band request to add atmosphere but, after 15 minutes, a venue official takes to the stage to tell us that the power is out in this area of Dublin and is not expected back on until at least 22:00. The band themselves emerge from the gloom, by the light of a smartphone, to apologise for the delay and promise us a full set.

By request or not, we have been granted a unique gig with a special atmosphere. Electric Ireland are shockingly efficient and get the juice back on before 10. The band are out sharpish and dive straight into things. Guitarist Ian Patrick O'Neil says that they were considering doing a fully acoustic set if the outage continued. John McAuley, O'Neil, and drummer Dennis Michael Ryan each take the lead on a song to kick off the set before all four approach the mics with some impressive and uplifting harmonies. They’ve just released a cover of The Pogues’ ‘White City’ recorded with Spider Stacy and they play it with the verve that this crowd would expect from their ex-pat brethren.

McAuley has claimed in the past that his musical awakening came through Hank Williams and it shows. Country music is big in Ireland but it is far from cool, yet this band hit all the right notes. More importantly, they avoid playing all the wrong ones. Even with the Mustang guitar strapped on and playing a ballad, McAuley sings without the painfully stereotypical country twang. Stripped of that affectation, songs that might come across as clichéd instead sound heartfelt. The slight growl in his throat illustrates why he was chosen for the one-night-only Nirvana reunion this year. The voice is lived-in and the approach is fresh.

O'Neil swaps his axe for a mandolin without sacrificing the vibe. He discusses how his grandfather arrived in Massachusetts and “I guess they stole one of the L’s from O'Neil” but how “this year I got my dual citizenship and they gave it back for my Irish passport.” It’s the most Irish thing I’ve heard an American say and it’s clear that this band belong here. During the intro to ‘Look How Clean I Am’, McAuley picks up his beer bottle with his mouth and downs it to great applause.

When people talk about Deer Tick, they often speak of the duality of their music. Maybe it’s more pronounced on their albums but there is no obvious dichotomy in their live set. There are moments in their jams when they sound like The Stone Roses or Michael Jackson but nonetheless there is a consistency to their sound and a universality to their performance that is undeniable. What’s really strange is that with the harmonies, the stylistic approach and, particularly, with the mandolin, this is exactly the type of band that my mother brought me to see as a child but updated with 30 intervening years of musical evolution integrated into the set. This is a group of excellent musicians doing what comes naturally. Deer Tick are that rare band that are super cool, with their finger on the pulse, but you could bring your parents to see them and everyone would enjoy it.

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