Sunday, 23 November 2014

Bad Touch - Tyketto Tour November 2014

For the fourth time in just over a year, the big mean Bad Touch machine hit the road again, this time the boys were supporting the mighty Tyketto on the UK leg of their European Tour.

The precious cargo was carted up to Carlisle early in the day, whilst we were stuck at work. Come 7pm, the mini mean Bad Touch machine was cruising North, laden with merchandise, acoustic instruments and enough breakfast supplies to feed an army for a month.

After a few frustrating diversions, we arrived in a cold and wet Carlisle to a room full of post-adolescent boys watching some spoof fantasy film. The one I expected to find this interesting - Bailey - had bailed early after a long night the night before.

Immediately welcomed, the response to our arrival was 'oh good, more beer' - thanks Steve! From that point on we knew we were in for a good week - kicking off at the G2 Glasgow the following day.

Every time we visit Scotland's largest city, I complain about the ridiculous one way system and the horrendous parking situation, but we were in for a very warm welcome as the venue's crew swapped insults with me in good, northern humour - putting me instantly at ease.

Tyketto turned up not long after the van was unloaded and made a point of introducing themselves. A lovely bunch of guys, keyboard and backing vocalist Jed welcomed with a hug, and drummer 'Goodfella Mike' raved about the set-up of George's kit - 'it's just perfect, this is gonna be great'.

'Mean Mike' was next, tour manager for the boys and not mean to me at all, a proud Glaswegian, he split his time between driving, merch, loading and general stage management - a very busy man!  Luckily for him, Tyketto only shipped DVDs and CDs for sale making his merch job easier, and giving me plenty of space to sell the Bad Touch wares, including the new t-shirt - a popular choice throughout the week.

Pre-sale tickets for the night were 290, a shock to me as I didn't realise quite how popular Tyketto were, but as the room began to fill and the atmosphere started to grow, I knew the boys were in for a great opening night.

The backing track quietened and over 300 sets of eyes turned towards the end of the room as Rob, Seeks, Bailey and George kicked off the brand new Bad Touch intro - much slower and more Zeppelin in style than the previous big-impact arrival. Steve sauntered to centre stage in time to accept the crowd's applause, shout a 'good evening' to the Scottish contingent and kick off new bluesy track 'Wise Water'.

Encouraging the crowd further with their new more funky look and sound, Bad Touch belted out 'Mother Load', encouraging the masses to join in with Seeks and George on backing vocals during the chorus.

A few familiar faces came to the merch stand to say hello, some who have joined the Bad Touch journey since they started travelling the UK last October with the Quireboys, and it was an absolute pleasure to catch up with them and an honour to be remembered by them - it truly made me feel like part of something special. This feeling would remain throughout the week. 

The boys' 40 minute set just flew by, but their applause was superb, showing that their fourth visit to the area in 13 months was appreciated. Plenty of people queued by the merch for photos and autographs. Cries of 'we’ve already got this CD, when's the next one coming out?' were a common occurrence, and it was a relief to say that the band will be recording in January.

A quick pack-up and a warm send-off by the G2 crew made for a pleasant drive back to Carlisle, where we rested our heads again in preparation for a busy day on Saturday – while Tyketto travelled to Northern Ireland; we headed off to Wales for 'Helloween Hard Rock Hel'.

An early start was needed as I swung by St Helens to see dad and collect some swiftly printed Bad Touch business cards, before heading on the beautiful journey to Phwelli. The Welsh hills and stunning crystal blue waters were a welcome break from the monotony of the motorways.

We landed at Hfan y Mor, collected the band’s passes and got familiar with our surroundings before the terrifying moment when Steve asked Mark is he could drive the big mean Bad Touch machine to the chalet. I stayed well back in the mini beast while people looked on in confusion and humour. It was a lovely feeling once Steve had abandoned the vehicle, for the boys to be asked for photos outside their van, and to walk past chalets blasting out the ‘Down & Out’ CD – a true sign of a great night to come.

Five press interviews followed, a part of each festival which is becoming a regular occurrence the more popular they become. Some of the band love it, some not so much, but to hear all five members having their say is welcomed as I hover on the periphery.

After some healthy food and a quick change into gig gear (and a second hair wash of the day for Seeks), the boys were ready to hit stage 2, and the crowds had really grown in anticipation of their arrival.  

Catchy up- tempo track ‘Waste my time’ really got the crowd moving, and one of my favourite ever Bad Touch songs, ‘Sweet Little Secret’ has been beautifully re-mastered and was performed to perfection with a little bit of crowd participation headed up by Stevie.

I was squished against the front barrier, so couldn't see the crowds behind, but was assured hundreds had come to check the boys out, and it sounded like it during every gap in the music as the cheers intensified. The 40 minute set simply flew by, but it was great to spend some time with the band after the show as they relaxed with a drink and chatted to fans old and new.

 Merch sales weren’t wonderful at Hard Rock Hell, but they never are, so the next morning we packed up the gear, woke up those who decided to make a night of it, and headed for Old Colwyn for a momentous gig – their first ever entry fee headline show.

The day didn’t get off to the best start, with rooms not having been arranged for the band at the Marine Hotel, the destination for the show, but it was soon sorted, and after another trip to Weatherspoon’s (the staple tour diet), we arrived back just in time for a quick merch set-up and to hear the brilliant set put on by support act Bad Dog,.

I’m not sure if I just speak for myself or if I speak for the band as well, but I was genuinely impressed with the number of people who turned up for the show. People paid to watch Bad Touch, and what a lovely bunch of people they were too – many had either been at HRH that weekend, or had seen the lads on their Electric Boys tour in September or with Bonafide in March at the same venue – a friendly little pub not far from the beach.

Steve and the boys seemed genuinely humbled by the attendance, treating the Welsh contingent to a 75 minute set which combined the new set with old classics like ‘Water’s Edge’, ‘Down’, and ‘Dr Heartbreak’, as well as a brilliant cover of The Rolling Stones ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’.

Although the Marine crowd is more of a ‘sit and enjoy’ kind of audience, the merch sales and post-gig reaction show that they really enjoyed themselves – despite the early evening slot of 5pm.
The lads stayed over nearby whilst we headed back to the parents’ just 40 miles away, where a night in my own bed and some home comforts including mum’s homemade spag bol were gratefully received, before we headed for a 3 hour journey to Newcastle on Monday morning.

Band mum Lynda (actually only Bailey’s biological mother, but she’s been adopted as everyone’s mum) and Kay joined us for the final three gigs of the tour, giving the boys more support and meaning I wasn’t the only female on tour for a little while.  We hooked up with Tyketto again in Newcastle at The Cluny – a great little venue run by really nice people (not only because they gave us free food which was beautiful).

The Tyketto sound check was similar to the Quireboys way back last October – hours of fiddling to create absolute perfection. Vocalist Danny Vaughan has an incredible voice, matched perfectly by Chris’s insanely good lead guitar solos. Again, ticket sales were strong and the room was already packed when Bad Touch took to the stage later that evening.

The Geordie fans know what they want, and take a lot to be impressed, meaning the lads didn’t feel like their set, which included the beautiful bluesy ballad ‘Something Someone’ and the brilliant ‘Words I never said’ did the trick, but merch sales and the reaction to them as they returned to the merch stand changed their view, although it did become a turning point with their set. The slower, more bluesy intro into ‘Wise Water’ would be replaced the following night in Nottingham following feedback from the travelling Bad Touch faithful.

Tyketto stole the show at The Cluny, belting out massive tracks including ‘Sail Away’, ‘Strength in numbers’ and Danny’s solo track, the brilliant ‘Haunted’ to make the £18 on the door entry fee well worth it for the hundreds who packed in. They sound a lot like Bon Jovi on recordings, but have a much rockier edge live, with ‘Sound off’ being a personal favourite – Danny’s two fingers up to the music industry of today.

After loading the van and counting the merch takings, a midnight search for food in Newcastle took us under the Tyne Bridge on a bit of a tourist trek, before an early start and another trip down the M1.

I always love going to Nottingham, and the Rescue Rooms in particular. The band always gets a great reception, and the venue is the perfect size for a rock gig. We were a bit tight on merch space, but we made it work with two tables set up on the steps to the right of the stage.

Tegan and Jessii joined the Bad Touch contingent for the gig, which saw the new intro gratefully received and set-list must have ‘Good on me’ go down a storm once again with the huge crowds that gathered on a Tuesday evening. Another record merch night showed that the amount of touring the band has done this year has worked – they now have fans all over the UK prepared to travel to watch them perform a support slot.

In addition, many hardcore Tyketto fans spoke of their surprise at how good Bad Touch were and what an impressive show they put on. This was welcome praise for the band, given the completely new audience Tyketto brings in comparison to Bonafide and the Electric Boys.
Photo courtesy of Robert Balmer Photography
A good night’s sleep followed and a midday start for the trek to Manchester and a trip across Snake Pass for us in the mini mean Bad Touch machine, before we landed at the Club Academy again for the final date of the tour. We were in the basement room once more, a large, quirky space with seating areas, a pit for standing and a perfect merch area at the back of the room. I set up for what I hoped would be the most successful night of the week.

After setting up, we headed for Weatherspoon’s again for the last supper, and a catch up on the successes and failures of the tour, and ideas going forward. A longer soundcheck by the boys is a new addition to this tour, as they double check the now more prominent backing vocal harmonies. A quick clothes change before doors were opened and I immediately had a queue.

Lots of familiar faces came to say hello, and one couple who had seen the band 16 times this year, came for a chat. It’s amazing to see how much of an impact this last year has had on their popularity. For the last time on the road in 2014, we watched Rob expertly lead Steve into the mesmerising ‘Halfway Home’ before completing a note-perfect guitar solo, showing off his skills to absolute perfection.

‘New Day’ fittingly finishes the set nowadays, and although not my favourite Bad Touch song of all time, it really has grown on me over the week, and I can see the impact of ending the set with it. I think I’ll always be a traditionalist and want the set to end with ‘Down’, but I see the need for change, and the ending is perfectly done as usual.

The tinge of sadness came in as Tyketto’s set began, as the short, but very sweet tour was almost at an end. We couldn’t have asked for a better reception, and we surpassed the merch sales target thanks to a record night in Manchester.

It’s difficult not to feel nostalgic about the last year. The band has achieved massive success – The Marshall Ultimate Band, winning a year’s endorsement and a slot at Download, a summer full of festivals from Les-Fest to Steelhouse, four UK tours in 13 months and two appearances at Hard Rock Hell. Add to this the huge amount of writing, practising and local performances by the boys, and it’s no wonder they’re now seen as a credible, professional bluesy rock band by thousands of new followers.

Despite their success, the band continues to work extremely hard to achieve their dreams, and I feel truly honoured to be involved with such a brilliant bunch of guys. Thank you, again, for letting us be a part of your wonderful, ongoing story. Here’s to an even more successful 2015!

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Quireboys, Bonafide & Bad Touch - Beautiful Curse UK Tour 2013

Bad Touch: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse

If The Quireboys are right and 'This is Rock & Roll', then sign me up, because I've just returned from the adventure of a lifetime, travelling around the UK on tour with Bad Touch as they supported The Quireboys and Bonafide.

Visiting 11 towns and cities over 14 days, it was a great opportunity to see the country, meet new people and spread the word about this great little rock band from Dereham, a feat I think we all achieved with huge success.

Steve: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse
Kicking off in Bristol, all five band members were a little nervous before taking to the giant stage, but the fantastic sound technicians at the O2 Academy really looked out for them, as did Bonafide with their provision of orange 'squash' (there was no vodka in it, honest!)

The piercing lights shone down on them as Seeks started the spine-tingling stage intro on rhythm guitar, closely followed by George on drums as Stevie bellowed: 'Good evening Bristol, we are Bad Touch', there was no doubt that the party had started, and any signs of nerves quickly melted away.

'Waiting on the morning light' was the opening song of choice, a party track which showed off Bailey's effortless talent on the 5 string bass to perfection, he made it look so easy as he threw his head down and let his enviously long locks cover his face – he clearly loves his work.

On their first major UK tour, and their first long stint away from home, the youngsters (in comparison!) were cared for by both Bonafide and The Quireboys, and as the show rolled into Oxford, the boys were honoured to be invited back on stage after their own set by Bonafide to perform their set-closing anthem 'Fill your head with rock'.

Bonafide: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse
Pontus, Mikael, Martin and Niklas make up the Sweedish rock outfit, who I'd seen before at the Yardbirds, Grimsby. Offering punchy, no nonsense riffs and powerful vocals, they truly are a sight to behold on stage. As main support for the Quireboys, this was their chance to promote new album 'Bombo', packed with feel good rock originals including personal favourite 'Rock & Roll Skal'.

Their nightly 45 minute set left your ears ringing to an unmistakable sound of classic 80's rock with a tangible European twist. Tracks like 'No doubt about it', 'Hard living man' and 'Doing the pretty' allowed for plenty of audience participation, and the four-piece certainly stamped their authority on the tour, leaving fans shouting for more.

A day off followed the Oxford show, and so came a chance to reflect on the mania and spend time with the band, who were still taking it all in themselves. Over a very civilised dinner consisting of steak and red wine, the boys relaxed, chatted and joked around. The Playstation was brought out of hiding back at the Travelodge, much to Rob's delight who got his fix of Fifa 14, and the boys prepared themselves for a busy few days ahead.
Rob and Seeks: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse

The O2 Academy Birmingham was a two minute drive from the hotel, so we got there early and watched The Quireboys and Bonafide soundcheck, a pleasure in itself. Paul Guerin, The Quireboys guitarist ensured everything was perfect; 'check, 1, 2, yeah yeah' repeated indefinitely – it had to be just right. Bonafide's soundcheck was the polar opposite; march onto stage, grab your guitar, strum a chord, and a thumbs-up to the sound man, done!

Birmingham was the toughest crowd yet, a fairly good crowd gathered, but without the same enthusiasm and enjoyment as previous nights. Perhaps the Wednesday 'hump day' blues had something to do with it, but the lads still shifted plenty of merch and left a lasting impression with a good number of Bad Touch converts.

We were ready to hit the road again on Thursday morning, heading north through the Derbyshire countryside to Sheffield. The shiny new Travelodge was a welcome sight, as was the close proximity of the venue. There was a buzz about Sheffield, and as the O2 started to fill up and the now familiar sound of the Bad Touch intro filled the room, the crowds were lapping it all up. 'Too Late' adorned the setlist, another high-tempo, sing-along track which went down a treat.

Spike: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse

Promoting their latest album 'Beautiful Curse', The Quireboys have a loyal following, with some of their fans travelling around the country to more than one show. Having performed live for over 20 years, Spike and the rest of the band look completely at home on the stage. As a frontman, he's mesmerising, throwing his mic stand in the air as if it's made of plastic and dancing like there's no-one watching. His stage presence is truly infectious, as is his charming, northern humour and obvious appreciation of the fans' loyal support. Kicking off their headline set with 'Black Mariah', his husky voice envelopes the room and has the audience eating out the palm of his hand.

There was no time to rest, and following a quick toast after midnight for Seeks on his Birthday, we piled into our two vans and headed 250 miles north to Glasgow. We arrived having seen some beautiful scenery on the way, and had just enough time to freshen up and head down to the venue for soundcheck. Setting up the merch in what Steve aptly described as the 'dungeon', I prepared myself to miss most of the gig, but the bits I saw were brilliant. The Garage venue was absolutely heaving, even as Bad Touch kicked off proceedings. The lads had been told they could perform an additional song in their set, so were alternating between 'Water's Edge' and 'Lying and losing' – adding to the high-tempo and high-quality set perfectly.

The Quireboys had a blast in Glasgow, Spike affectionately told me 'We always get a great crowd here and we love playing here, they're always up for a party!'. It was like their second home. For us though, with a long drive the next day, there was no time for partying, just a quiet drink as a group before heading back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

Bailey: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse
The halfway point of the tour saw a sell-out crowd at the Rescue Rooms, Nottingham. A Saturday night too made for a proper party and the dismal weather didn't dampen the atmosphere. It was also a chance for the band to see some friends and family, with the faithful coming to support their boys. The heat in the venue was relentless, and was almost unbearable on the balcony where we'd set up the merch. But the suffering was worth it as the half-hour set went down a storm, with tracks like 'New Day' still ringing in the ears of new-found fans as they queued for signed copies of the latest CD at the end of the night.

Bonafide and The Quireboys clearly enjoyed the capacity crowd's enthusiasm, playing a blinder. The Quireboys performed tracks of their latest album, including a personal favourite '27 years' and the catchy title-track 'Beautiful Curse', a song Spike dedicated to guitarist Paul, who recently got married. Old tracks '7 o'clock' and 'Hey You' had the crowds singing along every single night, and this was no exception.

The Bad Touch family dispersed, all bar Nigel and Lynda, who took over driving duties from Band Manager Mark, taking a well-earned break for a couple of days as the rest of us headed through the dreary northern rain to Newcastle, much to Rob's delight.

George: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse
The much-needed day off on Sunday gave a chance to relax, as we again came together as a group to reflect on the success of the tour so far. With family roots on Tyneside, Newcastle United fan Rob took the opportunity to visit St James's Park on Monday morning as the rest of the band slept in ready for The
Quireboys' homecoming show.

As we walked into the O2 Academy Newcastle that afternoon, all five band members had to pick their jaws off the floor when they saw the sheer size of the stage. It was vast, and they were worried they'd look lost. They needn't have, they owned every inch of it, with Steve dancing his way through self-written track 'Good on me' – a favourite of the massive crowd and an inspired insertion to the setlist, with its funky rhythm and cheeky lyrics.

Despite being Spike's hometown, this was not a biased crowd, they were there to watch three great bands and listen to some good music, and the Bad Touch boys went down a storm, with massive cheers from the audience and great merch sales to boot. Clearly though, as The Quireboys took to the stage, the crowd went wild, and when he introduced 'I love this dirty town' about his beloved Newcastle, Spike's audience was hooked.

The Quireboys: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse
Back on the road again, we were off early the next day to head for the Club Academy, Manchester. After the midweek gig in Birmingham the week before, the boys weren't holding out a lot of hope for Manchester on a Tuesday. As a north-west girl myself, I knew the northerners wouldn't let them down.

A queue had formed. Granted, it was shorter than the line for 90's pop group Blue's concert next door, but plenty of rock fans poured in early to check them out. One lady had been at the Oxford gig and was so impressed with their set, she had to come back. Rob particularly seemed to enjoy the Manchester show, playing a blinder on lead guitar and his enthusiasm shone through on stage.

Bad Touch live at Bristol O2 Academy
The final day off followed, and a chance for the guys to get home to Norfolk to see friends and family and relax. So I did pretty much the same thing, travelling just 25 miles to Liverpool and taking the opportunity to spend some time with my parents. After some proper home-cooked food (thanks mum!) and a lovely hot bath, we were back on the road and heading for the capital and a bumper crowd at the O2 Academy Islington; the chosen venue for The Quireboys live DVD recording. The maze of stairs and corridors in the venue meant finding the dressing room was a challenge, but as we left the band to get ready and set up the merch stand, the queues were already building outside. As Bad Touch took to the stage, the room was already pretty full, and their rendition of Led Zeppelin's 'Rock & Roll' was very well received by the rock fans of London.

Bonafide delighted the masses too with their no-nonsense hard rock set, and by the time both bands adorned the stage for 'Fill your head with rock' the room was at capacity. The Quireboys performed a great 90 minute set for their DVD and Spike played the leading role to absolute perfection.

Staying in Surrey that evening meant a lovely drive through the centre of London at night, and a chance to take in the historic sights, including Trafalgar Square, the Mall and Harrods, along with an informative running commentary from George. Another modern Travelodge in Camberley was a welcome destination for a rest, before setting off for the south coast in the morning.

Bad Touch live at Princess Pavillion Falmouth
An easy drive down to Bournemouth was followed by another civilised dinner with the 'family'. But a great merch set up at the venue was let down by the disorganisation of the staff and the ridiculously early start time for the show – 6pm on a Friday is not Rock & Roll! This meant a small crowd for the boys' slot, but we still managed to shift a decent number of CD's, so they clearly made an impression. Having attended the after-show party, we left Bournemouth and headed on the journey from hell to Yeovil – almost 2 hours of windy roads, woodland and little villages.

When we eventually arrived, we were all glad to check in and get to bed and prepare (mainly emotionally) for the next day – the last day of the tour and (for us at least) the end of the break of a lifetime. The drive to Falmouth was breathtaking at times, with stunning scenery and gorgeous weather. And when we arrived, the place itself didn't disappoint.

We couldn't have asked for a better venue, or town in which to finish the tour. A walk around the Princess Pavillion gardens, and a great photo opportunity on the hill overlooking the sea made for an inspiring setting, and the gig was no less amazing. The Bad Touch boys completed their set for the final time with the only song they could ever have chosen to say their goodbye, the brilliantly written epic track 'Down' sounded out to a room full of impressed punters.

The boys were happiest when behind their instruments, and they became one, a tight unit of talented musicians able to bring such a great feeling into any venue with their high-tempo funky originals and infectious on-stage rapport, they truly made their mark across the UK.

The party wasn't over yet, as the boys were again invited on stage with Bonafide, and then by The Quireboys to perform their final song 'Sex Party', an absolute honour for Bad Touch, and a great way to finish the tour.

We said goodbye and made the mammoth journey home through the night, back to normality and routine, but I can honestly say that I loved every single second of the experience, and couldn't have asked for a better group of people to spend it with.

Bonafide and The Quireboys have now headed off to complete the European part of their tour together, and I wish we could have gone along for the ride, but instead the boys are straight back on the gigging bandwagon with plenty of shows between now and Christmas, including a final showdown in the Marshall Competition for a chance to play Download in 2014; a year which promises to be a massive success for Bad Touch, and I can't wait for the exciting times ahead!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Quireboys Tour so far...

So the big UK tour with the Quireboys and Bonafide is finally underway and the Bad Touch boys have taken to it as if they've been doing this for decades. Opening the shows with a half-hour set packed with rock party anthems, they're really succeeding in getting the crowds going, and are gaining plenty of new fans along the way.

The tour kicked off at the O2 Academy Bristol on Sunday. A large, recently refurbished venue with a capacity of 2,000, the giant stage area housed the boys perfectly, and brought out the very best in each band member. The acoustics were perfect, and there were already plenty of fans piling into the venue as the lights dimmed and Stevie introduced 'Waiting on the morning light' at 7.30pm.

'Too Late' duly followed in a high-tempo, energetic set highlighting the variation and musical quality the band offers in spades, before brand new and increasingly popular funky song 'Good on me' - aptly written about wearing womens' jeans. 'New Day' followed before Stevie introduced the timeless classic 'Rock & Roll'.

If anyone in the crowd was unsure about Bad Touch at the beginning, they were well and truly won over by this cover, and by the time 'Down', the final song, was introduced, the whole room was bouncing. The queues at the merchandise stand proved the success of the set, with plenty of fans requesting photos and autographs.

Bonafide and Quireboys were brilliant, and I'll be doing a full update and review about their sets as soon as I can, but I just wanted to give an update about how well the boys are doing. So successful is their support set, that night two in Oxford saw Bonafide ask Bad Touch back on to the stage to perform alongside them for the classic 'Fill your head with rock' - their last song of the set - an honour for the boys, who hope to be able to repeat this again tonight in Birmingham.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Oval Rock House Reunion - Epic Studios, Norwich - 21/09/2013

Courtesy of Norfolk Photography
It's not often in life you wish you were older. Perhaps when you're a teenager desperate to get into a nightclub or the latest horror film at the cinema, but pretty much as soon as you hit 21 you wish you were back in school.

I had the exact opposite feeling this weekend when I stepped foot inside Epic Studios for the Oval Rock House Reunion. I'd have given anything to have experienced it first time round given the buzzing, vibrant atmosphere that welcomed me on Saturday afternoon.

Erin Rockowitch and her team created a masterpiece in just 3 months, combining the sights and sounds of the Oval as was, with a sprinkling of sparkly new local talent – many of whom would have graced the famous stage today, had it not sadly closed its doors for the final time back in 1998.

At just £10, tickets were an absolute bargain and the proceeds went to a very good cause, the MIND mental health charity, and with plenty of impressive raffle prizes on offer, kindly donated by the bands and other supporters of the reunion, the impressive crowd ensured plenty of money was raised.

Over 620 people filed up the stairs of Epic Studios, many hoping to relive the glory years of rock music in Norwich, and plenty hoping to catch a glimpse of the perfect blend of fresh and vintage talent adorning the large stage for 11 action-packed, eardrum-shredding hours.

The darkened studio provided excellent acoustics, plenty of standing (and dancing) room and a breakout area for those whose feet simply couldn't take the pace (including mine). With large projector screens positioned either side of the stage, every member of the crowd had a perfect view of the performances, as the whole show was recorded by Epic camera crew and streamed live online for those who couldn't make it.
Courtesy of Norfolk Photography

For those who could, the atmosphere was electric, excitement built up throughout the day, helped by an early performance from Jim Higgs, a young acoustic artist who's music is a breath of fresh air and was a perfect way to start the day.

Under the Radar upped the tempo with their energetic set. The trio made as much noise as any five-piece band I've heard, with plenty of charisma, and an audible Green Day influence in their original work – they're a band I'd like to see again, and with plenty of local gigs coming up, including a set at the Rock Monster event at the Waterfront in September, the chances are I will.

Joining them on the bill that day are Silenced by Shadows, who gave us an insight into things to come on Saturday as they well and truly rocked Epic Studios to its foundations. The last show for their brilliant bass player Johnny Liu couldn't have been a better one, with great stage presence and an infectious metal sound, they certainly took me by surprise.

Erin professionally punctuated the day with introductions before each band went on stage – the personal touch you just don't get anywhere else, and as the crowds started to grow bigger, she left the stage to Synaptic, a band made up of some former Oval regulars who provided an absolute assault on all my senses – in a good way of course. Clearly experienced musicians, their tight set heavily influenced by the birth and growth of heavy metal grabbed the unfaltering attention of the room, and the matching Synaptik smart shirts worn by band members were a welcome change.

Courtesy of Norfolk Photography
Continuing the metal theme as the afternoon began to turn into evening was the brilliant four-piece Saigon Kiss, fronted by the talented and timelessly charismatic Kev Saigon, who brought punk and heavy metal together in an electric half-hour set dripping with energy and plenty of sweat for good measure.

The drinks were starting to flow from the bar (which was pretty much drunk dry by the end of the night!) as Wicked Faith brought a bit of technical rock & roll top proceedings fresh from their headline performance at another celebrated local rock venue – King Edward VII the night before. Jade, Becki, Tim and Matt tantalised the tastebuds of every classic rock fan in the room with plenty of catchy 70's style riffs brought bang up-to-date with refreshing lyrics and an energetic stage show- Wicked Faith do exactly as the latter part of their name suggests – restore your faith in the timeless nature of classic rock.

Courtesy of Michael Wilkinson
Blending rock and metal together was the order of the day as all 600 attendees took a ride through Norfolk's music history, and Soulborn tattooed 'metal' on the chest of each and every member of the crowd with their pulsating, feel-good take on the genre, with catchy yet powerful riffs and an addictive stage show, these guys are sure to continue to go from strength to strength in their bid to plaster a smile on the faces of metal-heads everywhere.

The ringing in my ears was allowed to subside with intermission performances by 'Thunder Mental Entertainers'. Made up of fire breathers and semi-clad dancers armed with angle grinders, the scent of parrafin filled the air and sparks flew across the room as the group mesmerised with their grinding, sexy routines.

Rock & Roll took centre stage again as 6 o'clock struck in the shape of No Mercy, the first band of the day to have played at the Oval back in the nineties having formed way back in 1988. The guys reformed two years ago to once again bring melodic, classic rock to the people of Norfolk, which is exactly what they did, with help from a guest on-stage appearance from Denny. No Mercy are back to their best – and back at Epic Studios supporting the Burning Crows this weekend as they continue to spread the word.

Courtesy of Norfolk Photography
My highlight of the day was fast approaching, and it couldn't have had a better prelude than a set by the brilliantly fresh and talented Strange Tail. Having seen them recently at the Lady of the Lake, I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer. Despite only forming 7 months ago, I was astonished with how well they owned the Epic stage – hypnotising the audience with their Thin Lizzie inspired performance. Toby and the boys did tremendously well and well and truly stamped the strange Tail name into the minds of hundreds of die-hard rock fans.

Courtesy of Michael Wilkinson
Sparks flew once again as the Thunder Mental performance group warmed up the crowd once again and allowed Bad Touch to set up. It was time for a little bit of funky as the boys – who provided the back line for the whole event – pumped up the volume and made their presence well and truly known with a fantastic rendition of Led Zeppelin's 'Rock & Roll'. Sporting brand new shiny Hagstroms, Seeks and Rob on rhythm and lead worked in perfect harmony as the boys introduced party track 'Waiting on the morning light' and blues-inspired 'Preacher'. Finishing their fun-filled set with Skin's 'Look but don't touch', rehearsed especially for the reunion as a nod to one of the greatest bands to ever grace the Oval, the boys did themselves and their fans proud.

The fun didn't end there for me, as Mastema took to the stage. I'd been told about these guys and made sure I looked out for them. With a clear Papa Roach influence, their version of heavy rock envelopes your senses and makes it impossible to stand still. Belting out tracks from their latest EP 'Close to Breaking', the five-piece set the tone perfectly for a night of hard rock partying.

As the beer continued to flow, the floor of the once pristine studio floor took the brunt of all the dancing and spilled drinks, taking on a sticky glaze to bring back some memories for those lucky enough to have been at the Oval Rock House back in the day: 'Now it feels like the Oval!' were the cries of delight as your feet started to stick to the floor.

The anticipation was building for the headline act Sods Law, and Sweet n Innocent fed off the atmosphere to absolutely rock their set, which was unfortunately cut short With head-pounding riffs and raw energy emanating in spades, the crowd was in seventh heaven with tracks from their latest EP echoing in their skulls.

Words were being slurred and inhibitions were being lost as the party headed towards its peak, and Kamikaze Radio, combined with the 'surprise' reformation of the Oval legends Spot was the perfect catalyst to really send the crowd into overdrive. Belting out classics with an audible nineties rhythm, the 50-minute set left the over-excited crowd screaming for more as the re-lived the old days with friends old and new.

Courtesy of Kevin Watson
And so, after 10 hours of spine-crunching, ear-blending, skull-shaking rock and metal, the headline act were ready to take to the stage. Reforming for only two gigs after their split in 1999, Sods Law were better than ever as their first performance plastered a smile to the face of every single member of the audience. The 5-piece absolutely stole the show with pulsating rock beats in tracks like 'Whats done is done' and 'Violation', it was as if no time had passed since their final show at the Oval. With one more show booked at the Spalding Rock Club in November, this reformation has been a huge success and a sign that rock music is, as we all predicted, utterly timeless.

Erin and the team at Epic Studios put on a fantastic show, and what started as a one-off reunion gig celebrating a great venue has snowballed – with 'Ovalfest' already booked for 2014. And the 11 months in between then and now should be just enough time to recover from the awesome show we were treated to in 2013, proving that Norwich still has a want and an inherent need for pure rock talent. Roll on Ovalfest 2014!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Insane Music Festival Final - The Railway Venue, Ipswich - 15/09/2013

As Sunday nights go, this one was pretty special. Usually spent doing ironing and getting ready for work, this Sunday, despite the torrential rain, we made for the Railway Venue, Ipswich to watch the final of Lord Bishop's 'Insane Music Festival'.

An event set up by Lord Bishop in a bid to find a support band for his European Tour next year, we were treated to an eclectic mix of music from Four Wheel Drive, Shock!Hazard, Bad Touch and the Handsome Dead, who's set we unfortunately missed this time round.

We arrived just in time to sample the delights of Shock!Hazard. Now there's a stage show worth watching. These three guys have so much intense youthful energy pouring out of them, and they leave you as the audience feeling exhausted for them. 

Launching their new EP next week, the boys were treated us to an ear-popping mix of originals including my own personal favourite 'Dirty fight'.

Bad Touch set up next as the rain continued to pour outside, fresh from their unplugged performance at the Gemini, Dereham. 

The boys took to the familiar stage – where they'll be performing again on Tuesday 24th September in support of Warrior Soul – to belt out a 40 minute set sprinkled with the usual party tracks 'Set the night on fire', 'Too late' and 'Waiting on the morning light'. 

An opportunity to try out some new songs on a familiar crowd, Skin's 'Look but don't touch' followed brand new original 'Good on me' in its full electric debut.

Next up came the winners of the festival, claiming the slot on tour with Lord Bishop, Four Wheel Drive, a loud, four-piece band that screams attitude and grabs all your senses with catchy beats and infectious riffs. 

Performing tracks from their recent EP, including 'Hammered Again' and 'High Roller', it was the perfect ending to an evening championing local musical talent.

Next up for Shock!Hazard is their Live EP Launch at the B2, Norwich on 22nd September, while Four Wheel Drive continue their UK tour at the Exmouth Pavillion on 27th September. 

For Bad Touch there's a 7.30pm slot at the Oval Rock House Reunion at Epic Studios, Norwich on Saturday, 21st September before the boys head back to the Railway.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bad Touch Unplugged - Gemini, Dereham - 14/09/2013

There's was a different, more laid back atmosphere to gig day this Saturday as I approached the Gemini, Dereham for Bad Touch Unplugged. Running late meant I missed most of the warm up, a jamming session between lead singer Steve, drummer George, and Steve's friend Ali.

It's not the usual venue for a rock gig, a 'Meet & Eat' bar, packed with families chatting over plates full of pub classics. Tucked away to the left of the front door, the band were set up facing half of the would-be restaurant, cleared to allow space for the fans who piled into the Gemini.

Unusually, the band members positioned themselves on chairs and stools (and the beat box for George) and, after a few PA adjustments, introduced 'Water's edge', followed by Rolling Stones classic 'Jumping Jack flash'.

The acoustic version of second single 'Too late' came next, before the boys slowed things down with Bon Jovi's 'Wanted dead or alive'.

It was a hometown gig for the boys, and this was obvious with the amount of people singing along to the original Bad Touch tracks, including 'Call for me', 'Preacher' and 'Lock & Load', and the die-hards were treated to an inaugural acoustic performance of new song 'See you again'. Steve dedicated the track to his friend Ali, who wrote it with him almost 10 years ago.

Thoroughly spoiled, the audience was also introduced to another brand new song 'Good on me', a catchy upbeat number written about wearing womens' jeans – a topic close to the heart of a couple of band members who I won't mention.

Ironically, ZZ Top's 'Sharp dressed man' came next in a set completely different to the norm. It was nice to see the boys in a different environment, casually dressed, perched on stools, enjoying themselves and having a laugh still as they do at every single show.

Paying homage again to Led Zeppelin, and with a couple of tributes to legends Skin and Guns & Roses, the set took fans on a journey through the history of Bad Touch, from their idols and inspirations, to their own musical beginnings and more recent efforts, right through to brand new barely out-of-the-studio originals.

The busy weekend continues for the boys as they head to Ipswich to perform in the finals of the Insane Rock Festival courtesy of Lord Bishop at the Railway Venue – great preparation for their set at the Epic Rock House Reunion next Saturday.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Bad Touch & Strange Tail - Lady of the Lake, Oulton Broad - 06/09/2013

Oulton Broad was again treated to a Rock & Roll masterclass last Friday evening, as the Lady of the Lake played host to Bad Touch, supported by Strange Tail.

The place was already packed when we arrived just after 9pm, and people continued to pour through the front doors as Strange Tail took to the stage. Lead singer Toby J. Rous, the former frontman of Bad Touch made their presence felt as the Norwich-based 5-piece belted out originals and rock classics in an energetic high-tempo set.

Influenced heavily by the likes of Thin Lizzy and AC/DC, the band work really well together, there is clearly an understanding between the artists which allows them to work as a tight unit, despite only being together for 7 months.

Performing their first demo track 'Running for your love' as well as their take on Thin Lizzy's 'Don't believe a word' and 'Jailbreak', the guys are well and truly making their mark on the local rock scene – which is only going to be helped with their performance at the Epic Rock House Reunion on 21st September.

Joining them on that day will be the brilliant Bad Touch, who took to the stage next, and with the crowd already in the mood for a party, the performance of recent hits such as 'Set the night on fire' and 'Too Late' went down a treat.

Punctuated with covers, the Bad Touch boys continued the nod to Thin Lizzy by performing their ultimate hit 'Whiskey in the jar', as well as Led Zeppelin's fantastic 'Rock & Roll, to the delight of the crowd that packed out the venue yet again for the boys.

Having been busy in their home studio, Bad Touch introduced the audience to some new tracks, including two originals 'Halfway Home' and 'See you again', as well as Skin's classic 'Look but don't touch' to bring a new, fresh edge to their performance.

Seeks and Bailey combined perfectly during fans' favourite and rock party track 'Waiting on the morning light', while Rob expertly held proceedings together during 'Preacher' with an awe-inspiring performance on lead guitar.

The gig gave the opportunity for Bad Touch fans to celebrate with George on his birthday, and he was centre of attention for an epic drum solo, complete with cowbell of course, during 'Lock & Load'. Stevie took full advantage of the atmosphere in the venue, mixing up the original track with 'Word up' and 'Hot in here' for the highlight of the night.

'Down' brought the mammoth 2 hour set to a close, but instead of screaming for more, the crowd burst into a random chorus of 'Happy Birthday' for George, who thanked the audience as the lights came back on and people started to disperse into the night.

Next up for the boys is an acoustic set at the Gemini, Dereham on Saturday, before the finals of the Lord Bishop 'Insane Rock Festival' at the Railway, Ipswich on Sunday.