Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A Decade Of Gigs Part Six - Portsmouth

This blog is the sixth part in a series of blogs I have been writing about the fact that I’ve now been going to gigs for 10 years. The years I have been covering are 2006-2015 and I’ve covered all sorts of areas so far. The first one of these blogs was about a venue in my home town, Portsmouth, called the Wedgewood Rooms. For this one, I go back home and cover a selection of gigs from this decade from other venues in Portsmouth. Whilst I had been to other concerts before 2006, these were with parents and for the purposes of these blogs, I have disregarded them. For those wondering why, there are two reasons for this. The first one is probably the most important – I don’t remember all of the details about who I saw. I remember seeing Edwin Starr at the International Festival of the Sea (and once at the Heineken Festival when I was a very young lad at which I fell to sleep against my dad’s leg). I remember going to a gig at the Guildhall where a number of older acts performed. I know Shalamar played that night, as well as Hot Chocolate. I know it was a four band bill but I don’t remember one band, and I know I fell to sleep during Rose Royce (which is slightly annoying as it would have been good to have remembered seeing them). The second reason is that these gigs are all ones I attended because I wanted to. I chose to go to all of the gigs covered in this series of blogs. Anyway, without further hesitation – lets go back to the very beginning.

The first gig I went to was Fear Factory at the Pyramids in April of 2006. This was at a time when Fear Factory did not have their original line up on the stage but it was still a great gig. Well, from what I remember it was great. At this time, there was a bar underneath the venue called The Frog On The Front, and I joined some friends in rounds of beer and tequila – so my memories of the night are a bit hazy. I remember running into the mosh pit when they played Linchpin and again when they started to cover Pantera’s Walk. I remember it being a good night and the one which started my love of going to see bands live. When reflecting on this time, it does make me wonder why I didn’t go to more gigs, and why the second time I would see bands live of my own choosing, according to my records, was Download 2006. Quite a jump to go from a gig in my home town to going to a pretty big festival. Still, it was a fun time. The next gig on this list took place at the Guildhall and was the first time I left a gig with my ears ringing for some time afterwards - Motorhead. The main support band for Motorhead was Clutch – a band I now rather like, but at the time I thought very little of. Motorhead themselves were a very loud wall of noise. I remember really liking the fact they took a break from assaulting the crowd with this wall of noise to play Whorehouse Blues – a song I was really into at the time. Of course it was great as well to hear them play the classic songs like Ace of Spades, Killed by Death and Overkill for the first time. It was my first time seeing them and thankfully not my last.

If I could go back in time and give myself a slap and tell myself to leave the bar earlier to go and see all of the support bands, I would for the next gig. Trivium rolled into town, touring their album The Crusade. The main support was Annihilator who were superb. However, due to my desire to get a nice buzz for the gig, I missed Sanctity but more annoyingly, I missed Gojira. I do hope they come back to Portsmouth again soon. Anyway, Trivium were utterly superb that night. At the time, I think this was probably the best gig I had been in Portsmouth just due to how good they were. I’m going to jump forward almost a year and talk about a very different gig. I had been to the Pyramids a couple of times by this point but never had I been to a gig as hot as the Reel Big Fish gig was that night in February 2008. It was a really fun night but it was seriously hot. On reflection, this was probably the first gig I’d been to where I’d danced most of the time the headline band was on. They are a lot of fun live and the gig of theirs at the Wedgewood Rooms was just fantastic. I know I already talked about it, but it really was.

Later that year, I went to the one and only proper gig I went to at South Parade Pier. When I say that, I mean no disrespect to the bands I saw live at Chaos Live! It’s just I don’t remember most of the bands I saw there. I remember Little London having an ace set, but that’s about it. Anyway, the gig I’m going to talk about here was Hayseed Dixie. I’d seen them a few times at this point and every time, the venues were busy and it was a great atmosphere. This was…different. I can only assume the promotion of this gig was substandard because the room could hold over 1000 people and about 300 turned up at most. There was another gig at the Wedgewood Rooms that night which is the only reason I guess for why this wasn’t moved. Anyway, the opening act was a local act called Shep Woolley. He got heckled a bit from what I remember and the whole crowd remained either on the seats at the back or at the bar. It was a tad awkward. Hayseed themselves were great and thankfully, everyone moved towards them when they played. I just went to try and find more information out about this gig, see if I could find a review or something. I couldn’t find anything, but did notice on google they suggested an old blog post of mine where I mentioned in 2011 how it was nearly empty. Ach. They didn’t come back to Portsmouth until last year when they were one of the best acts (in my opinion at least) at Victorious Festival. Later on that year, I went back to the Pyramids for the one and only time I’ve seen Rancid live. I bought a ticket for this gig on the grounds I liked the song Time Bomb and knew nothing else. When I walked in, I was a bit unimpressed with the band on stage and turned to a mate and said “if this is Rancid, I have made a terrible mistake and will probably go back to the pub” – at which point they finished and left the stage. It was not Rancid, so I stayed. That was a good decision as they were excellent. I remember being impressed with how quickly they played through some of their songs – I went to the bar to buy a beer and in the time it took me to walk to the bar, buy a beer and walk back to where I was standing – they had played 4 songs. It was a great gig though and I really want to see them live again. I almost dropped everything to go see them in Belgium earlier this year as they played their album …And Out Come The Wolves in full. I couldn’t get the money together and therefore missed it. I would love it if they would do a full tour for that album, but even if they don’t and they just tour, I would be happy.

One of the gigs I talked about in the Wedgewood Rooms blog was about a band called Black Stone Cherry. Two years after the Wedge gig, they played the Pyramids. They had originally booked the Guildhall but it got downgraded to the Pyramids. I didn’t think too much (and still don’t, honestly) of their second album, which this tour was in support of. However, this gig was great. It was the first time I saw them play Things My Father Said live, and now that song makes me well up – pretty much every time I hear it. Live, it has become a whole crowd sing along song which I like, but it was cool hearing it performed by just the singer at this gig. In March 2010, I went back to the Pyramids to watch Trivium. I had been unsure if I was going to go to this because I wasn’t as much of a fan as I was when I saw them in 2007. Since then, I had also seen them put in a lacklustre performance in Brixton supporting Machine Head. I was sold on the fact they were supported by a band called Chimaira – a band I had wanted to see again live since I had caught their set at Download 2007. They had a great set and really set a high bar for Trivium. I remember thinking that there was no way Trivium would better the Chimaira set – and then they did. It was another great live performance by Trivium in Portsmouth. One thing that amused me recently is that Trivium toured the UK recently and they said it was a tour of places they hardly ever played – and one of the dates was in Portsmouth. I thought that was odd because I had seen them twice before in Portsmouth and they also played the Wedgewood Rooms twice in 2005. There were some other dates on this tour in places they would hardly ever play, but Portsmouth was not one of them.

 In the span of 3 days, I went to two very different gigs in Portsmouth. The first one, as I now know, was the last time I would see Motorhead in Portsmouth. In all honesty, what sold me a ticket for this tour was the fact that Anthrax were supporting them. I had seen Anthrax as well a few times but never in a gig venue – only at festivals. The both of them together made for an excellent gig. Motorhead were better at the Southampton Guildhall a few years earlier, but this was still very good. I am sad to say that this was the last time I saw Motorhead be good. The times after that it was obvious Lemmy was suffering and sadly, he passed at the end of last year. It feels weird to say that I will never see Motorhead live again. Two nights later, I was at the Pyramids to see Billy Talent. I had seen them before but I had been towards the back of the crowd and not overly involved. For their Pyramids gig, I was about 2 or 3 rows from the front and it was quite lively down their when Billy Talent came on. It was a lot of fun and they are an excellent live band.

The next part of this blog will focus on two consecutive nights in February 2014, both nights I was at the Guildhall. The first time I was there was because the Pyramids had been damaged in a storm and the gig, which was sold out anyway, was moved to the Guildhall. It was a co-headline tour with Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish with Zebrahead supporting. Zebrahead were a really good opener, so much so that I bought a ticket to see them at a headline show in Portsmouth later that year. Reel Big Fish stole the show for me (I quite like them live – can you tell?) Their set was fantastic and they didn’t look out of place on the bigger Guildhall stage. Everything about their set was great. The live performance was great and the band, between songs, were very entertaining. Less Than Jake closed the night. It appeared a number of people left after Reel Big Fish as I was able to get closer to the front for Less Than Jake. I’m not sure if they had an off night or whether I was just tired after Reel Big Fish (I suspect the latter) but I remember that I enjoyed Less Than Jake – but not as much as I thought I would. The next night was Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls. I hadn’t seen Frank Turner with his band since their sets at Reading in 2011 and between those sets and this gig, I had become quite a fan of his music, especially the album that was being toured on this run – Tape Deck Heart. Before talking about Frank’s set though, I want to give mention to the main support. I had really wanted to see Flogging Molly live ever since I first heard the song “Drunken Lullabies”. They did not disappoint in the slightest. I remember leaving the venue after they played for a cigarette and saying to a mate that if for whatever reason, Frank’s set got cancelled, Flogging Molly’s set would have sent me home happy. On reflection, it wouldn’t have, but it was still fantastic. Frank Turner and his band had been set a high bar, which they proceeded to smash through and then some. Their set was fantastic – so much so that I’m pretty sure this was my favourite gig in 2014 and in all honesty, one of my favourite gigs of all time (astonishingly, his Southampton gigs in 2015 were better). The only negative I have from this gig is not being able to remember them playing Love, Ire and Song. I really wanted to hear it in November last year and when researching when it was most recently played in the UK, I noticed one of the last times was at this gig. Awkward. Anyway, this was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.

The next entry on this list is here more because of the story rather than the performance by the band. The gig was in November 2014, it was at the Guildhall and the band was A Day To Remember. The support bored me if I’m honest - so much so that I created a solo music project called The Paperboys and started creating song titles and song themes – I later found out that there already was a band called The Paperboys and that, combined with my inability to play an instrument, killed that project off. Anyway, A Day To Remember started off very strong. This gig was shaping up to be in my top 5 gigs of the year without question. I remember seeing someone walk in front of me dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog, which made me smile as the band have a song called “You Be Tails, I’ll Be Sonic”. Not long after that person walked passed, I suddenly saw a lot of people turn their heads towards the middle of the crowd. Thinking this was due to the guy in costume, I thought nothing of it until the guys in the band started looking concerned. They finished their song “The Document Speaks For Itself” and they went off stage. I think the singer made some sort of announcement before going off but it was very unclear what had happened. Turns out someone had jumped off the venue’s balcony and landed on the wooden floor of the standing area. Everyone was evacuated and the gig was cancelled. At the time I was a bit gutted about the gig ending early but obviously the welfare of this person was more important than any gig. When it became clear several days later that he wasn’t pushed or thrown, and had jumped of his own free will, I lost my concern for him. It was a shit ending to what had been an ace gig up until that point. I would like it if ADTR came back to Portsmouth but I somehow doubt that will happen.

A week later, I was at the Pyramids to see Volbeat. Now, I’ve probably mentioned it before over these blogs but I bloody love Volbeat. They were supposed to play The Wedgewood Rooms several years earlier but the gig got cancelled. Volbeat took Hatebreed out on tour with them which made the gig even better. Hatebreed had a really good set and after missing their Wedgewood Rooms headline show the year before due to illness, I was glad to see them again. Volbeat had an outstanding set. This wasn’t much of a surprise as this was the 3rd time I’d been to one of their headline shows in the UK and had seen them headline Wacken. What was a surprise however was that they bought Barney from Napalm Death on stage to perform “Evelyn” – I’ve now seen them do this 3 times and every time it is superb. I still have no idea how this band are not bigger in the UK. One day perhaps. I notice they have not announced any UK dates for this summer – maybe something will be announced soon? Hope so. Not long after this gig, I was back at the Guildhall to see Machine Head. I wasn’t fussed about the support so went to a pub before the gig. I stayed their slightly too long and got in as Machine Head were playing their first song. I’ve never seen Machine Head have an off day and this gig was no exception to that rule. It was really busy downstairs but a photo I saw of the venue showed how quiet it was upstairs – which either means a lot of people snuck into the standing area or a lot of seating tickets remained unsold. I’d like to think it was the first one, despite it being remarkably unsafe if a lot of people pile in downstairs at any venue. Regardless, I was surprised. Machine Head were excellent, as per usual.

The final two gigs I want to talk about cover a band not long into their career (as far as I know anyway) and a band who have been about a fair while. In 2014, a band called Royal Blood became very popular. I really liked their debut album so when they announced they were playing Portsmouth, I wanted to go. I had no idea just how popular they were when this gig went on sale. I’m pretty confident in saying this was their first UK tour, and they sold out the whole thing in about 20 minutes. I was successful in getting a ticket. Not long after this, they then announced another UK tour, which had another Portsmouth date in it. This second tour would take place 3 months after their first. The Portsmouth and I think Bristol dates from the first leg of their tour got postponed due to illness, and rearranged for January. This meant in 3 months, they would do two Portsmouth headline shows. They were both sold out so no problem for them – you don’t tend to see that very often though. Anyway, this was a pretty short gig because they only had the one album. They had Turbowolf supporting them, which was ace as they are a great band. Royal Blood live is interesting. I saw some reviews of their Portsmouth show calling them boring because of how good they are live (in that, them live could well have just been the album turned up quite loud). I was really impressed with how good they were. The final gig for this entry took place towards the end of 2015. At Download 2015, I saw Judas Priest have a very enjoyable set, and as they were closing their set, Rob Halford turned to the crowd and said “who is going to come and see us live later in the year?” which got a big cheer. I turned to the mate I was at the festival with and said “I will…if you play Portsmouth!” which was my way of saying no, because there was no way Judas Priest would play in Portsmouth – and then they did. I missed the support because beer is cheaper in Wetherspoons than in the Guildhall (this seems to be a common theme for me) which was a shame as I wouldn’t have minded seeing Michael Schenker’s band. Oh well, no matter. Judas Priest were really good that night. I had been to better Judas Priest shows, but it wasn’t as if this performance was poor – far from it. Even on reflection, I still find it hard to believe that Judas Priest played the Guildhall in Portsmouth. I would have assumed before this tour was announced that they would play bigger rooms.

And that wraps up part 6 of this series of blogs. In terms of what is to come, I have the second part of the London blog to write – and then I intend to post a photo blog of some of the live music photos I’ve taken over the years. After that, it will be done! Until next time

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