Traditionally I have a birthday gig – the touring season seems to be manic in December which works well for me. The last couple of years it’s been Fear Factory, but Burton and company have snubbed me this year so I settled (yeah, right) for a night of punky rocky stuff courtesy of Ginger and his huge touring entourage. As a bonus, we got the chance to talk the main man himself, along with Ritch and Danny, before the gig. That’ll be online soon enough!
With four bands on, the doors were a reasonable 7pm as there was no annoying club night with resultant 10pm curfew. JAW$ ambled on stage around 7:15 and.. who’s this? Ginger on drums? Yup, Ginge batters skins pretty well for a guy we normally associate with guitar and this time he’s backing up his son’s band. Ginger Junior takes his dad’s usual position at the microphone with six-string in hand and, with confidence, launches into the beginning of a short but enjoyable set.
The crowd, numbering a couple of hundred, pay attention – which is good for an unknown opening band. The novelty of seeing the headline act on stage so early is obviously part of the draw, but as the set progresses, the audience genuinely seemed to warm to Young Ginge though the songs themselves are a little on the basic side and the sound is a little murky where I’m standing, guarding James’ camera equipment.
He’s not lacking enthusiasm, though, as the final song is a belter and he finishes the set lying on his back, belting the strings like a punk star of yore. Worth keeping an eye on.
The Main Grains get a very warm welcome to the stage. Danny is a former member of the Wildhearts and very recently lost the bottom of his right leg due to complications relating to other medical treatment. He’s a trooper, though. Like Ginger (hell, like many musicians), he’s been through drug hell and depression and has beaten them away to be sat on the stage in front of us on a fetching wooden chair. Losing a foot isn’t going to hold this guy back.
Alongside his three band mates, he creates a nice racket that some of the crowd already seem to know. With a set that’s not too long for those unfamiliar, The Main Grains get some heads nodding, some hands clapping and quite a lot of us laughing. As a highlight I’d go for the recent single from their 7-track album, “I’d Rather Be In California” which added a country lilt to the punky proceedings.
Each member had a shot at lead vocals throughout the set and within the songs, which was great to watch. The only issue here was that one of the mics was incredibly low until the sound desk noticed around halfway through their set. They’re an entertaining bunch, you’d expect nothing less from Danny, and they left the stage to a half-full auditorium giving them a well-deserved round of applause.
Main support were a band I’d never heard of before, but who arrived with a merch stall larger than the other three bands’ combined! Dirt Box Disco are as smutty and mental as their name implies, and their songs vary in subject matter from going round roundabouts to standing in queues to getting wasted. When a band walks on stage and your first impression is that they look something like the bastard offspring of Tragedy and Evil Scarecrow you know you’re in for a laugh, and laughs we got.
The songs were good, the pace manic, the crowd interaction wonderfully done (“You make me want to bum puppies”), and the between-members-banter just the right kind of childish. If they were a bit faster, thirty years older and a smidgen more shit they could be Lawnmower Deth.
They also had a few fans cunningly placed in the audience with a couple of girls bedecked in reindeer horns in particular bouncing around to most of the set. It took the rest of the near-full hall a song or two to get into them, but as they said their goodbyes and their “buy our merch”‘s, the response was very loud indeed. This is a band who definitely walked off with an increased fanbase tonight. Dirt Box Disco encapsulate something that too many bands lack these days – fun.
At half nine, the lights went down again and Ginger came on – again – accompanied by his three bandmates… The Wildhearts were in town. The applause was obviously much louder and, typically Ginger, our Geordie frontman stopped for a couple of words with everyone before launching into opener “Sick of Drugs”. We were then treated two views of mass media with “Vanilla Radio” and the band’s first single “TV Tan”.
We were, over ninety minutes, to be treated to a great collection of tracks – a “best of”, essentially. My personal favourites are all from earlier in the band’s history and I wasn’t let down with half of Earth Vs getting an airing, along with a couple of B-sides from around that era. Mind, with a band that produced that many extra songs to go on the flip sides of every format of their singles, they must have written more tracks than most artists of their era!
Regardless of whether a track was one of my favourites or not, the place was buzzing for every single one. Throats were raw by the end (I heard more than one person say so to their friends at the end) and there was a lot of boogying and jumping from the – let’s be honest – appropriately aged crowd for this gig. By which I mean predominantly old farts like me.
Fourteen songs in and the band wandered off so we could inflate their egos by chanting for them (Ginger’s words, not mine), and also so the stage crew could set things up for the return of Danny. To the biggest cheer of the night, with the exception of the end of the gig, he was wheeled on stage and deposited back on his wooden chair just off centre stage. The last five songs were thus played with two bassists! And what a quintet they were…
They always say you should save your best for last and despite using up some cracking songs earlier in the set, the band volleyed home five gorgeous strikes with the encore. My personal top favourite (for obvious reasons for those who know me) “Geordie In Wonderland” was slap in the middle. I hear the opening strums and I quite literally tingle. All the hairs I have left stand on end and all I want to do is sing. Very few songs have that effect – the only other I can think of off the top of my head is “Cowboys From Hell” and even that’s faded as it’s just not the same without Dime.
Even Ritch had a shot, being called down from behind the drums by the crowd to sing “Duck Song”, which he originally did vocals for on the unlisted final track on the “Suckerpunch” single. And he did OK. For a drummer.
Overall, a blinding show let down only slightly by muffled sound at points. Or maybe it’s just me ears getting old. It’s great to see the next generation coming through with JAW$, Danny doing well again and also a completely new act… and those Wildhearts classics will never, ever die.
All pictures by Bukavac Photography