There seemed to be a lot of middle-aged women wearing leather trousers on the tube up to Chalk Farm in North London. On exiting the station, a tout asked me if I wanted to buy a Blondie ticket. Ah, of course, Blondie were playing at the Roundhouse – a legendary venue nearby.
I walked past the long queue of peroxide blondes to a small pub up the road – the Fiddler’s Elbow, which was featuring five new bands – all of which hope to play the Roundhouse one day.
Kelly, the label manager of End of the Trail Records, explained that he puts these nights on for new bands to give them a chance to get in the shop window. “Sometimes, you hear a band and go WOW”, he informed me. “Three of our bands are being featured on Radio One at the moment and will be playing at a big festival in Brighton in a couple of weeks.” However, none of those bands was on the bill this evening.
So I was hoping that tonight would unearth a new gem or two.
First up, and playing to a handful of early arrivals, were LEONTAS (not sure why the capitals), a two-man rock band consisting of Scott Collier (drums/vocals) and Alexandros Munteanu, (guitar/vocals). This combination obviously suggests White Stripes or Royal Blood. Alexandros did the whole hat, scarf, beard thing (fashion tips from Kasabian) and did indeed remind me of Jack White in his delivery. “When people see there are only two of us they think we will be boring, but it’s about to get fucking loud”, he announced.
Songs included a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and their own “Sweet Trouble”, which seemed to have borrowed the riff from Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Do It Clean”. A band that needs to feed the punters, Alexandros beckoned us forward to the stage and lifted the the energy for their last two tracks “Better Things” and “Step Down”. Competent rock ‘n roll that probably would work better with a larger audience for the band to bounce off. I can see these guys playing a small tent in Glastonbury one day, which will go well with the “pirate farmer” image.
Next Shambala. Guitar, bass and drums with each member taking turns to act as the vocalist.
Giovanni introduced Marco on bass and Roberto on drums and later explained to me that he is a sound engineer and the other two students. And yes, they are all indeed Italian. They looked like friendly chaps – Roberto spent the set smiling from ear to ear and enjoying the experience while looking like a young Malcolm McDowell with a Mohican.
Highlight of the set was probably “No One Wants to Die Young”, which Marco introduced by saying, “Well we hope no one wants to”. Which summed up the set. I felt that they were struggling to find an identity – they call themselves “Experimental Rock”, but there’s something about the mellow tones of a Hofner semi-acoustic bass that demands jazz walking bass lines. Nice chaps and I’m sure they will continue to make a noise together in between lectures.
Third, Ryan Webb. Continuing the international theme, Ryan let us know that he was joined by an (unnamed) Spanish bassist and Vito Guerrieri an Italian drummer, who he claimed is “one of the best session musicians in the business”.
Ryan seems to have been watching old Satriani, Hendrix and Steve Vai videos (indeed he plays a mint green Vai Ibanez jam guitar – the one with the built in handle). And the tricks came out too – double finger picking, whining strings, a bit of looping and even playing with his teeth. No lycra though.
Ryan rocked classically through his set and complained that he didn’t have long enough “to get you guys involved”. He also let us know that he hopes to get his album recorded this year, but we can buy his new single “Lucky Ones“ in the meantime. The song is designed to remind us of how fortunate we are – but it reminded me of what Iron Maiden would have sounded like if they were using Alan Partridge to write their lyrics. Maybe David Hasselhoff could sing it on what’s left of the Berlin Wall. Now there’s an idea.
After Ryan came Garage Flowers. Hanoi Rocks meets Artic Monkeys meets The Libertines? Again hats, scarfs, Chelsea boots and nods to Mark Bolan’s stylist were in evidence (more pirate farmers). That’s apart from their drummer, who quickly whipped off his hoodie to play topless. No leather nor fur for him.
They describe their sound as “drunken guitar pop”. When singer, Joe Capaldi, asked for some water, it came as no surprise that he was handed a beer from the audience.
Garage Flowers are the sort of band that would be at home on college radio, RadioX in the UK, or lurking in a teenager’s bedroom after they are supposed to have gone to bed. Have a listen to “Nothing’s Gonna Get Me Down Today” and “Miss Maggie May“ to see what I mean.
The band does have a very able singer in Capaldi who oozed confidence and swagger from behind his guitar, just as all good front-men should. They are having a laugh and making music and their fans enjoyed the energy they created in the room too.
Finally, Weekend Recovery from Maidstone (a town about an hour from London). Earlier in the evening, I had a conversation about focal lengths with their drummer when we were stood in the gents. He was very excited about my Canon and, of course, headlining the gig.
Weekend Recovery are three skinny lads on drums and guitars, with a not-so-scrawny bass player. The five-piece band is completed by Lorin the lead singer, who discovered that a beer glass had earlier been broken on stage as soon as she took her shoes off. (Joys of following those pesky pirates?).
They are a pop-rock band who attended the Paramore school but play with a harder edge, borrowed from the likes of The Deftones. The most polished of the bands that night, they delivered a set full of catchy, guitar-driven tunes, kicking off with the earworm “Circles”. Have a listen to the simple but effective “Focus” too – Lorin apologised for the colour of her hair in the accompanying video (which is now restored to the appropriate Siouxsie black to match the tattoos on her arms).
Weekend Recovery are getting interest from NME and mainstream radio in the UK, and I’m sure they won’t be playing in pubs for much longer.
So I got back to the tube station to find a lot of middle-aged women talking about how they had enjoyed their evening in the company of a 71-year old. Oh to be young again.
More photos from the gig at www.jampondphotography.com/gigs
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