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Preston Pfanz And The Seaton Sands, Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh


It’s time to get your reverb out, and loosen up that vibrato arm because Surf’s up at Henry’s Cellar Bar tonight; and eye spy, I’ve already spotted some ho-dads hanging around the door looking conspicuous, maybe looking for trouble? but probably just looking for the gents ...  

It’s a busy night at Henry’s - the smallest venue in town (or at least that’s what it feels like). I’m very happy to hear that Edinburgh has a surf scene; or at least enough surf bands to host a whole evening of instro action.

Edinburgh fabled five piece Surf Manchu are already in situ when I arrive, and I have it on good authority that they’ve been playing for around 50 mins! Describing themselves amusingly as ‘Not so much SoCal, kinda more NoSco’. They’ve certainly made an effort to at least look the part, with polynesian shirts and fezzes, no less. Always a welcome sight.They are both youthful and enthusiastic, and I caught them playing Dick Dale’s 'Miserlou' and the ‘60s Batman theme - both of which are always good value. I hope to catch their full set next time.

Onto the Head Henchmen. The fantastic foursome take to the tiny stage. They say that ‘they still can’t decide whether they are a surf rock band or a sledge rock band’ check out their facebook page for more info on that one. Whilst not looking like most traditional surf bands, what they lack in that department, they make up for with sheer exuberance and a lovely longhorn bass guitar. Superficialities and joking aside, they are quite impressive. Their set is a mixture of self-penned numbers and choice covers, all performed with capability, pounding drums a-go-go. The give us a weird and wonderful mixture of tunes; the Tetris theme tune (an excitable young lady informs me), The Shadows’ ‘Apache’; the first but not the last Shadows cover of the evening. I would like to know a) when did The Shadows become cool?* b) why no Shadows Walk?**. Ending their set with a fabulous version of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’.    


Lastly, but by no means least-ly, it’s time for Preston Pfanz & The Seaton Sands. You may recognise a few of them from various other Edinburgh ‘60s repro bands over the years such as The Thanes and Les BOF!. And this particular band, although very modest about it, are definitely in a different league. They have a distinct presence. Kicking off with Link Wray’s ‘Run Chicken Run’, and then onto the more esoteric ‘Black Sand Beach’ by Kayama Yuzo (swoon!). They continue driving through their set effortlessly with a varied and cool mixture of surf / drag / spy and horror instros, along with more from the Shadows. Frontman Angus McPake challenges the crowd to a dance contest, but I don’t think the crowd are quite that tipsy, and to be fair there isn’t much space to Twist effectively, never mind Hully Gully.

They dedicate a rendition of The Beatles ‘Please, Please Me’ to the recently deceased 5th Beatle George Martin, as well as ending their set and encore with ‘Cry For A Shadow’. 

*I’m yet to disassociate them from Cliff Richard.

**The Shadows Walk is three steps within a 60-60-60-degree triangle with a reverse right-heel back-kick with optional can-can finale (source: Wikipedia)

If you missed them this time, Preston Pfanz And The Seaton Sands will be playing at the official after party for The Scottish Tattoo Convention at Studio 24 on Sunday 27th March details which can be found here.

Graham Day And The Forefathers, The Georgian Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees


It only feels like five minutes since I was at the The Senior Service single launch gig in London. What a night that was, you can read about that here. Graham Day and Wolf Howard are back again, this time with accomplice and bassist Allan Crockford. I digress; this is a different town, different venue, and indeed a different band.

As I get myself ready for a pre-gig tipple, a pretty little bird messaged me to say that support act, King Mojo, are sounding fab at the sound check, so I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer having not been acquainted with them previously.

Also having never visited Stockton-on-Tees I wasn't sure what to expect, but it's a fair sized venue; very busy, and as expected the show has pretty much sold out. The crowd is predictably full of excitable over 30's (possibly older, but looking youthful), with a strong mod presence.  

King Mojo I'm guessing, being a local Middlesbrough band, have lots of family and friends in the audience spurring them on. This retro four piece have charisma; with no small help from a Roland VK-7 which is switched on to Hammond mode. They belt out a souped-up cover of The Small Faces 'Get Yourself Together', and continue their set with '60s British psych rock sounds and mod power pop; not forgetting a few mellow instrumentals to boot. One cannot help but draw comparisons to the headliners previous incarnations; they even finish their set (and encore) with a cover of The Primemovers' 'Crystalline' (with the blessing of the band I'm reliably informed), which was a brave and touching gesture, and luckily for them, it paid off.

There's a queue out of the door for the bar, and if you're lucky you might get a refill before the main act. The prices of drinks here are ridiculously cheap compared to the prices down south, as of course this is The Forefathers first gig up north. A fellow gig-goer, who like me has travelled from further afield, commented on the fact that it's too expensive to get drunk in venues like the Half Moon.  

There's a warm and welcoming atmosphere as The Forefathers literally leap into action with 'Good Things'; obviously glad to be here, and ready to entertain. It's full steam ahead into what seems like much more Solarflares numbers than I've heard them play previously (always delighted with that!) particularly the electrifying 'Open Your Eyes' which is like a breath of fresh air, and sounds better every time I hear it.

With the customary shouts for Prisoners songs, the band were in obliging mood and performed old favourites such as 'Be On Your Way' 'Love Me Lies' and 'Reaching My Head', and encouraged the crowd to sing along. Crockford, always the one with the cheeky banter, said something along the lines of "this next one is a real killer" possibly referring to the velocity at which they had all been performing up until that point; and with no sarcasm intended (I'm sure) they launch into 'I Am The Fisherman'. There's a couple of Gaolers numbers in there too; the rousing 'Sitar Spangled Banner' is always good value, and executed by Day with the usual scraping of the guitar neck on the monitors.

A guy behind me has been shouting for 'Hush' all night, and at the very end his wish is granted as the band return to the stage for a second encore with 'I Drink The Ocean' which blends seamlessly into 'Hush'. I wish I could have bottled that moment for him.

Rewinding slightly, the last time I saw The Forefathers play was at the Cosmic Trip Festival in Bourges, France in May 2015. It was most unfortunate that they, and other bands, such as The Baron Four, were playing on the main stage. It was far too big, the sound was all wrong, and there was little to no atmosphere… it was a shame. We knew it, they knew it; so it's great to see them tonight, back on form, and more importantly, enjoying themselves.

I can only echo what I've said before. That The Forefathers are even more dynamic now, and gave a relentless and gratifying performance. Proving once again that they are a band at the top of their game. Should there be any doubt about this; check out the photos, the camera doesn't lie... 

The Forefathers will be appearing at Le Beat Bespoke on Thursday 24th March details for that can be found here, and the the Medway Legends Weekender in San Sebastian, Spain details of which are here. The Senior Service will be launching their debut LP The Girl In The Glass Case on 18th June at The Lexington in London, details to follow.

Photographs courtesy of PJFImages.

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