Ah, one of those great nights where you know every band on a bill is going to blow you away. To top it all, in the kind of venue that’s just designed for music. Glasgow’s Stereo Café and Bar sits atop a little underground cavern with no windows or air conditioning… but great atmosphere and sound.
Our own Katie reviewed a recent Rammstein show a couple of days ago, which was at one end of the “spectacular” scale with its massive outdoor stage and insane pyrotechnic show. Here tonight we had the diametric opposite in terms of scale. A capacity of a couple of hundred, a decent backline, the bog standard fitted stage lights… and a whole hell of a lot of rock and roll. This is the type of venue where hard-working musicians ply their trade and we were to see much plying this evening.
Opening were Massive Wagons from the north-west of England, a band who were only up here a couple of weeks ago at Wildfire. Ross caught them on the Saturday while I was doing interviews or belting my head around at the Horrorfly stage, so this was my first experience of this absolute bunch of rock nutters. If you need a band to blow away the cobwebs of a busy week then I can think of no better.
I didn’t catch a copy of their setlist, but I enjoyed every song. Despite being cramped into a tiny space at the front of Stereo’s narrow but deep stage, frontman Baz was a bundle of energy who barely stopped moving and on numerous occasions I was concerned he was going to slam his forehead into Adam’s flying V every time he headbanged. Adam himself was pogo-ing like he had springs in his shoes for almost the entire set. Bassist Bowz, sadly, was stuck behind Adam in a little niche due to the small amount of space but you could just tell he wanted to let loose.
Ploughing though around half a dozen songs with excellent sound, they certainly managed to make an already-warm crowd positively sweaty and left stage to a ceiling-shaking roar of approval – one well earned. After this tour they’ve been invited to play on the Rising Stage at Ramblin’ Man. Do make sure you catch them if you’re going. It’ll be a set worth seeing.
Next on the bill was Ryan Hamilton and his recently-christened backing band The Traitors. I’d had a chat with Ryan before the gig (and caught him after – he’s the kind of guy who schmoozes with the fans!) and knew to expect a couple of new songs in their set. With just the one album out – last year’s absolutely superb Hell of a Day – it was good to know we’d be sampling some tracks which might be on the new album.
As a three-piece, the band had more space to move around than Massive Wagons but aside from gurning bassist Rob Lane chose not to. Hamilton’s music is more the type to listen and sing along to than bounce around to, but given the ambient temperature the crowd were going to get sweaty anyway.
What struck me about the set was that songs I was already very familiar with sounded distinctly different, and I don’t think this was by accident. While the album has a predominantly summer-y/feel-good ambience, the live show was very much grittier. “Karaoke With No Crowd” was definitely a touch rockier, while “4 Letter Verb” actually had a bit of a lounge music feel to it. Ryan’s voice is also a lot raspier live than recorded and unfortunately he didn’t get as good a deal from the sound board as Massive Wagons did with his vocals sometimes fading. For half the set at least, we couldn’t hear Rob’s backing vocals at all.
Guitars and Mickey Richards’ drums ere clear throughout, though, and the crowd knew the words to most of the songs anyway… though there were those sneaky new ones. The set also included “Oh My God”, a solo track not on the album, but we also heard “Strength in Numbers” and “Moved To L.A.”, the latter of which has definitely been featured in the demos section on the Pledge page for the second album. It cunningly features the “C” word (almost) which Ryan played on while bantering with the crowd between songs.
This is where Ryan excels. He’s a nice guy who gives as good as he takes with an audience, but never comes across as either harsh or stupid. His humour is well-intended and often self-deprecating, but it is funny. He does a nice line in ‘tween-song chit-chat, even when he can’t understand a word the audience says… or so he claims! Maybe it’s a Texan thing because Bowling For Soup seem to struggle in Glasgow as well.
Topping up the set, we also got “Truth on Tape”, originally recorded by Ryan with his old band Smile Smile, but he rounded things up with the wonderful anthem “Freak Flag”.
Again, a great response from a happy crowd – in particular the “Laney” brigade to my left who seemed to have turned up purely to worship at the Altar of Rob and who left merrily with handfuls of bass picks!
Ah, but the headliner. Truly, and I mean this without the slightest hint of sarcasm or hyperbole, tonight we were in the presence of rock royalty. Ginger is a hell of a bloke. There can be fewer musicians who churn out the level of quality output that he pens. If he writes material that doesn’t suit his band… well, he forms another band. And then maintains that one along with the previous one. He’s written a book (which I wish I could have afforded), churned out singles during the days of The Wildhearts that had 2-3 new songs on every format, runs a record label and tours a couple of times a year.
The rest of the Ginger band shouldn’t be ignored, though, as without them we’d not have such a great live show. We have the energetic Toshi on bass, Conny Bloom (who looked like he just stepped out of a “Sgt Pepper”-era Beatles video) on guitars and Denzel on drums. They make a superb live combo, clicking together well despite looking like four pieces of completely different jigsaws.
Now, I’m not familiar with a lot of Ginger’s solo material. I like what I hear, but I’m an old-school Wildhearts fan to a large extent, so I wasn’t completely sure what to expect… but that didn’t stop me enjoying the show. Yes, there were licks here and there – and definitely a bassy bounce or two – that reminded me of the 90s, but the material being chucked our way tonight was excellent. The set comprised of quite a few Silver Ginger 5 songs as well as a more recent Wildhearts track (2003’s single “Top of the World”) and was close to non-stop.
I’m not sure if there was an early curfew or if Ginger just wanted to get through the show quickly before he lost more weight through sweating than was medically safe, but there wasn’t much chatting with the crowd. However, I didn’t see anyone around me complaining. Hands were clapped, jumps were jumped, lyrics were screamed along to – “Sonic Shake” probably got the first really loud cheer as it was introduced, but there was no denying the reception that songs like “Mother City” and “Mazel Tov” received.
After around an hour, the band left the stage and the visible set list had been played through. A great hour of fun, but a shame I’d not heard any songs I knew (not the band’s fault!)
But, lo… Our four-piece returns and launch into “Vanilla Radio”! After this, probably the longest bit of chat from Ginger of the evening as he asks if we want to engage in a game of “kill the drummer”. Poor Denzel is a skinny beanpole as it is. Currently he looks like a wet and droopy skinny beanpole, having belted out an hour’s worth of rhythm in what was quickly becoming a tropical environment. But hey, if you can’t take it… and the band kicked into the blinding “Suckerpunch”.
Two more songs were all we had time for after this and I couldn’t have been happier at a hairs-on-the-neck raising rendition of “Geordie in Wonderland”, partly sung by the crowd, to give Denzel a rest. I absolutely adore this song (friends will know why) and I will never in my life tire of it.
The set and the evening ended with another Wildhearts’ classic, “29 x the Pain”. What a way to bow out after a brilliant set.
I’m glad the dates on this tour are selling to well (I think there were ten tickets left on the door tonight, so I expect it sold out), and fans are absolutely getting value for money from all three bands. If you can catch one of the later dates, do yourself a favour – get off your arse and get a ticket. This is a great package. Who needs explosions and fireworks when you have quality music and great personalities?
All photos by Iain Purdie for Moshville Times