Saturday, 25 August 2018

2018 - The First 6 Months In Gigs

Whenever I write my favourite gigs of the year blog, I often think that I will write more in the coming year. After all, I pay for the domain name each year so why not actually put it to use and blog more often. However, I often can’t think of things to write about, outside of what gigs I’ve been to and so end up not bothering. This year, or since September last year to be exact, I’ve been doing a degree course which has taken up a fair bit of time (probably not as much as it should have done truth be told) which I would attribute to why I’ve not spent the time writing about anything else. Anyway, I am all but off the course going forward (in that I’ve made the decision to go, I just need to go through the formalities) so hopefully, I will find inspiration to write more. It would seem a bit daft just posting this as a blog, so I will use what I have written here as an introduction to talk about, shocker, gigs I’ve been to this year. Specifically, the ones I went to in the first half of the year. According to my list from last year, I went to 15 gigs in 2017. Between February and June of this year, I went to 15. To me, it seems appropriate to write about them. I am still planning on an end of year blog as per usual. There is a small chance that if any of these gigs make the top 10 (spoiler, they will) that the text might get duplicated across. We’ll see. Anyway, to February!

Marmozets – Saturday 3rd February 2018 – Engine Rooms, Southampton.

As stated in the 2017-year end blog, I saw Marmozets for the first time because they rearranged their Portsmouth show for a date I could make, so I thought it would be rude not to. I had listened to them before but only in passing, I’d never given them a proper chance. I can’t remember if it was the same announcement where the 2018 tour was announced, or if they came later, but I thought it was cool they were doing Southampton on a weekend, but I’m sure the Portsmouth gig would do me. I changed my mind about 2 songs in when I realised firstly, how good they are and secondly, how good live they are. I ranked that gig as my 5th favourite of 2017 and wrote that I wouldn’t be shocked to be writing about them again in a years’ time.

Best laid plans and all. 6 days before this gig, I sprained my ankle. I still went to the gig, but I decided to stand towards the back. I got there just in time to catch Queen Zee and the Sasstones, who were really good (missed them at the Portsmouth date due to being introduced to Rick and Morty that day). Marmozets were just as good as they were in Portsmouth. My personal enjoyment was enhanced by knowing the new songs and hearing them live again made me love them more. The sprained ankle hampered my enjoyment of the gig because I kept finding myself in the way of other people, which meant I had to keep moving which in turn, was causing my ankle to be in pain. I left during the last song to beat the rush, as I envisioned getting an accidental kick to my sprained ankle and that would not have been fun. I don’t think this gig will be in the top 10 come years end, but not because of the band, as they were brilliant.

Paradise Lost – Friday 16th February 2018 – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth.

I went to this because I’d seen Paradise Lost at a festival before and remember thinking they were decent. I’m not sure if a chance to see them again has come up – if it has I don’t remember it – but they were in my home town on a Friday night. A better chance to see them was unlikely to occur. Anyhow, I arrived while the opening band, King Goat, were on stage. They weren’t really my cup of tea. The main support, Outshine, were good. They made me think they would be what would happen if Oomph! went goth/doom. I enjoyed their set quite a lot. Paradise Lost though were on another level - they were outstanding. I don’t think I expected to enjoy it just as much as I did, which is an odd review. I guess it is because I’m not massively familiar with their back catalogue. I went along to hopefully see a good gig, and left having seen a great one.

Ginger Wildheart – Friday 9th March 2018 – The Joiners, Southampton.

Boy, did it ever rain before this one! Got absolutely soaked before the gig which I thought might lower my enjoyment of the gig. I don’t think it did though. The opening act, She Makes War (Laura) was good. Not usually what I’d choose to listen to, but I enjoyed it. I never tire of seeing Ginger live. The Ghost in the Tanglewood songs fit seamlessly into his live set. It was great to hear some of that material live as the album is excellent. I really like the band he put together for this tour. Last time I saw a solo show, it was Ginger and Jase Edwards, which was great. The backing tracks with the drummer and backing vocalist added a lot to the show though. One thing which did occur to me was how much better The Wildhearts acoustic gig would have been had it been at The Joiners. Maybe next time! I can’t really think of what else to say about this one, it was bloody great.

Milk Teeth – Saturday 24th March 2018 – The Anvil, Bournemouth.

I don’t often go to gigs in Bournemouth and as such, there were a couple of venues I would see appear on tours and want to visit just to say I’d been really. These venues were The Anvil and The Old Fire Station. After seeing them be excellent in Southampton in August 2017, I knew I wanted to see Milk Teeth again. They announced this tour which included a date at The Anvil in Bournemouth – a phrase about 2 birds and 1 stone seems appropriate here. The venue is underneath a bar, and the stage is really low. Anyhow, this time round the supports were Nervus and Fangclub. I really enjoyed both bands, but if made to choose which one I preferred, I would say Nervus. Fangclub, I’m guessing, really like Nirvana. This is no bad thing of course. Milk Teeth were just excellent. This didn’t come as a surprise but was nice to see again.

For what it is worth (not a lot), I had a ticket to see Cancer Bats at The Old Fire Station earlier this year and didn’t go because I had a job interview the day after. I didn’t get that job, and I still haven’t been to The Old Fire Station. Bah!

Epica – Friday 13th April 2018 – O2 Kentish Town Forum, London.

This was my 3rd time going to an Epica gig at this venue. Was it my favourite? Yes, it probably was. To start with, this is the best support package I’ve seen for an Epica show, with Oceans of Slumber and Myrkur supporting. Both bands, whilst being very different from one another, were superb. I am hoping to see them both again (sadly, it does not look like I can make the Myrkur headline show in London in December). For Epica, this was their 999th show (the next night being show 1000 in their home town) and they were in impressive form. I had forgotten just how good they are live. The only possible fault I could say is that the night before, they played The Essence of Silence, which didn’t make the set for the London show. That is my favourite Epica song, so that was a shame not to hear that. But, that aside, the gig was bloody ace, from top to bottom so to speak.

Skindred – Friday 20th April 2018 – O2 Guildhall, Southampton.

Going to a gig and boozing 2 days before returning to Southampton to run a half marathon. I am not a smart man. I missed Danko Jones due to the lure of alcohol on a sunny evening. I think I am just destined to not see them live, although this time it was all on me. Caught the end of CKY which was cool. Got to see them play 96 Bitter Beings which made it worthwhile as that is my favourite song of theirs. When it comes to creating a party atmosphere at a gig, there are possibly none better at it in the world of rock/metal than Skindred. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand, even during a ballad – a departure from previous Skindred shows I’d been to and a song which I‘d not heard before, so it caught me somewhat off guard. The new material really worked well live. Skindred though are in a position where they could probably write a couple of belting songs to include in the setlist for each tour and be alright. 

Code Orange – Sunday 22nd April 2018 – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth.

Going to a gig just hours after running a very testing half marathon? I’m not a smart man! Anyway, my intelligence aside, Lonely Waters opened this one and they were a good opener. My band of the night however goes to the main support, which was Employed To Serve. I saw them last year supporting Milk Teeth which was superb. This though was mind blowing. I could have gone home at that point and I would have felt like I got my money’s worth. The only time I’d seen Code Orange before was in a support slot (supporting At The Gates when they were still called Code Orange Kids), and I didn’t think much of them truth be told. The album Forever, and this gig has completely changed my view on Code Orange. They were excellent. It was possibly one of the most aggressive gigs I’ve been to in terms of how angry the band seemed. It was unique, and I really liked it.

Cancer Bats – Thursday 26th April 2018 – Camden Underworld, London.

A brief note on the support for this one – Funeral Shakes were very enjoyable and I also quite liked Death By Stereo. Cancer Bats were something else though. The set was celebrating Hail Destroyer by playing it in full, but the set kicked off with 3 songs back to back from Dead Set On Living, which is no poor way to start a Cancer Bats show. Hail Destroyer in full was incredible. Probably the highlight of this part of the set for me was Liam telling a story about the time when the album came out and thanked us for being there (as this was the first of 4 dates to go on sale and sell out) and it all seemed very heartfelt, before just casually saying “okay so next is Sorceress”. Love that song but it such a change of pace! The encore of 2 new songs, Pneumonia Hawk and N.I.B (a Black Sabbath cover) capped off a breath-taking evening.  Was gutted to miss their Bournemouth show and sadly cannot make any of the shows with Anti-Flag later in the year.

Britrock Must Be Destroyed – Sunday 6th May 2018 – Hammersmith Apollo, London.

I got in in time for the end of Dodgy’s set. They played Good Enough which is an anthem without doubt! The surprise package for me were Terrorvision – a band I’ve never really listened to before but thought they were absolutely great. The Wildhearts were the reason I bought a ticket and they did not let me down – they were immense. It was just an absolutely stunning set list. The only way I could have improved it would be to make it longer and add more songs. Reef were there. I don’t wish to be negative but aside from Place Your Hands – they aren’t for me.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (Lost Evenings II) – Saturday 12th May 2018 – The Roundhouse, London.

Caught the very end of Emily Barker, who I thought was really good. Bloody love The Subways live but it would appear I was one of maybe a dozen in the crowd who thought so. Band were great, but the crowd didn’t seem to care. I’ve been in crowds like that before and it is always a bit awkward. Frank Turner and band were just superb. Afterwards, as much as I loved the gig, I was slightly disappointed the album wasn’t played in full (despite all the album tracks being played) but then when I took time to reflect, I realised that the gig didn’t suffer as a result (nor was it advertised to be an album in full show, rather just a celebration of the album by playing all the songs). It was a fantastic set – something which didn’t come as a surprise. Always nice though!

Machine Head – Saturday 19th May 2018 – The Roundhouse, London.

This gig was “an evening with” – meaning Machine Head played for about 3 hours, if not 3 hours exactly. This was my first time standing on the floor at the Roundhouse, and I’m not sure if it was the fact that Machine Head fans are, on average, taller than your average gig goer or if something else was at play, but I didn’t overly like it down there. The band themselves were on top form and the set list was killer. Before this gig, it had been some time since I saw them live and I had forgotten just how good they are live. It almost seems criminal that they aren’t filling bigger rooms on a regular basis.

Britrock Must Be Destroyed – Saturday 26th May 2018 – Guildhall, Portsmouth

Second time going to this tour. Originally was only going the one time but when they announced extra dates, including a show in my home town, seemed almost rude not to! Same running order for this one as the London show. Sat at the back for all of Dodgy’s set and they were enjoyable again. Once again though, Good Enough is a damn anthem! I was looking forward to a mate who I went to this gig with seeing Terrorvision as the only time he had seen them, he was not impressed. They were as good, if not better than when seeing them in London and they certainly won my mate over, which is good. The Wildhearts, well copy and paste from the previous Britrock gig really – one of my favourite bands being bloody incredible – what is not to like? Didn’t hang about for Reef.

Volbeat – Wednesday 30th May 2018 – House of Vans, London.

Well, this was something. I had spent some serious time trying to work out if I could make one of their headline shows that were, relatively speaking, not that far away (if you consider that I went to Copenhagen to see them last year). I couldn’t get to Manchester or Glasgow because I couldn’t get the time off work, and Belfast was ruled out because the cost of flights and a hotel were prohibitive (I’ve learned my mistake about not booking a hotel for a Belfast gig before – add 5 years on to that and I do not want to be outside a Tesco overnight instead of in a bed). Dublin was do-able but pricey. After a bit of logic kicked in, I decided against going and felt sad about it. Then, Volbeat announced they were doing a House of Vans show. I skipped out of work early and headed to London to join the queue as early as I could, in a tunnel that smelt very much of spray paint – some of the art on the walls was pretty cool though! This gig was a first come first served type situation, so when I got there, I had a good feeling about getting in, but felt slightly nervous about the whole thing until I had the wristband on. First time at the venue and it was a very cool setting for a gig. No support, just a Volbeat headline show and my word was it good. Similar set list to the one I saw in Copenhagen but that didn’t take anything away from it for me. I’d gone from seeing this band in a sold-out stadium (which held I’d guess 50k) to an underground venue with maybe 600 people in. Amazing.

Morass of Molasses – Sunday 17th June 2018 – Edge of the Wedge, Portsmouth.

Supports for this were all good. First time seeing Stray Bullets, despite meaning to for ages (even back when they were called Stray Bullets Kill). Thuum also deserving of a nod. Morass though were on another level. The new stuff all sounded fantastic and I am very much looking forward to the new album. I missed a chance to see them again a month after this show – something which on reflection, I regret. They were superb on this night though.

Nine Inch Nails – Sunday 24th June 2018 – Royal Albert Hall, London.

Black Moth Super Rainbow opened this gig, continuing the pattern of me not really liking bands that open for Nine Inch Nails. This was my first time seeing NIN since they were over here in 2014 and I had forgotten just how good they are live. Some of the new material from the 3 EPs released in the last 2 years or so are just massive live, and the cool thing for me about the setlist was that because of this new material, almost half the set was made up of songs I’d not seen them play live before. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen NIN quite a few times at this stage, and this gig could be the best NIN show I’ve been to. It is certainly in the conversation that is for sure. Part of the reason for this has to be the venue. Previously, whenever I’ve been to the Royal Albert Hall, I’ve been in the gallery standing area. I’ve been fine with this because usually, these are the cheapest tickets. I’ve often wondered if being lower down is worth the money. To stand on the floor for this one I think cost £20-25 more, and to answer that question – it was certainly worth it. My word was it worth it. It got me thinking of other gigs I’ve seen there, and I can now see why people would pay more to sit down there for most things (I’ve wondered since how much more I would have enjoyed Pulp and David Gilmour there, had I been downstairs). That band and that venue fit together perfectly.

And that, in a nutshell the size of the Taj Mahal, was the first 6 months of 2018 for me in terms of gigs. I’ve not mentioned wrestling shows in this, although that could be a blog in and of itself, as I’m really getting into the British Wrestling scene. I started slowly in 2015 (missing a lot of good stuff sadly) but I’m glad to have embraced it now. Anyway, I cannot promise I will find something to write about between now and the end of the year blog – but I will try!