Saturday, 31 August 2013

Bad Touch - Brickfest - 26/08/2013

The Brickmakers Norwich played host to the brilliant Brickfest music festival last Monday in aid of Sprowston Junior School, and with 3 stages fully booked all day, the £2 entry fee was an absolute bargain.

It was hardly surprising that queues formed outside as the large venue was at full capacity, with Bad Touch headlining at B2 stage and Aftershock finishing proceedings on the Brickies stage after a day of top quality music from many different genres.

The Brickies stage proudly hosted a wealth of local talent including Strange Tail, Tattooed Lies and Pure Passion, and there was literally no room to move as the audience was packed out all day with rock and pop fans of all ages.

An acoustic tent stood proudly in the garden surrounded by bouncy castles, food stalls and dozens of people enjoying the glorious bank holiday sunshine. With the likes of The Black Diamond Duo, Jade Murray and Lee Vann entertaining the crowds who sought solace outdoors, the musical contrast between indoors and outside was vast, but worked perfectly to please the massive crowds all day long.
We spent most of our day at the B2 stage, watching some great local rock bands including Wicked Faith and Blind Tiger, who have completely changed their sound since I last saw them in 2011. Sounding much more mainstream rock now, they are a tight and professional outfit with plenty of songwriting talent.

Dying Breeds brought some punk rock to proceedings just after 9 o'clock, before the Bad Touch boys set up ready for a headlining performance. With most of the band having been at the Brickies all day supporting other local talent, they were definitely in the party mood as 'Set the night on fire' kicked off a high-tempo, energetic set.

The B2 stage area was packed, and with a fenced off area for the band, Stevie felt right at home playing to the crowds, suitably dressed for the occasion in a fetching leopard print shirt. 'Dr Heartbreak' followed in a set dominated with brilliant original tracks that really got the crowd moving.

In true Bad Touch style though, the boys mixed things up during the classic track 'Lock and Load', as George and Bailey changed the tempo following Rob G's instrumental to introduce a little bit of 80's disco in the form of 'Word Up' and some classic Naughties' rap in 'Hot in Here' to add an unexpected twist to their performance.

'Too Late' and 'Waiting on the morning light' went down a treat as the Brickfest event sadly drew to a close, before we were reminded by Stevie why we were all there. He took the opportunity to thank the venue, congratulate the other performers, and introduce some 'good, old-fashioned rock and roll' as the sounds of Led Zeppelin's epic single filled the room.
Finishing with fans' favourite and perfectly written track 'Down', the boys finished the event off in fantastic style. A great day was had by all for a bargain price considering the wealth of talent on offer at the Brickmakers on the last Bank Holiday weekend before Christmas, and I couldn't imagine spending mine any other way.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Bad Touch - Carlton 16/08/2013 & Flying Dutchman 24/08/2013

August has been a good month for Bad Touch fans of North Suffolk, as the boys performed there twice in eight days at The Carlton, Lowestoft and the Flying Dutchman, Oulton Broad.

With their local presence in the area growing by the month, the Carlton was a new venue for the boys, and they squeezed into the performing space provided to complete two 45 minute sets.

Packed with Bad Touch fans old and new, the pub is starting to stamp its authority as an upcoming live music venue, and with money in the pot for the completion of its refurbishment, their PR campaign is bound to be successful.

With the PA whirring to the sound of 'Set the night on fire', the ageing windows looked to be feeling the full force of rock & roll as the glass panes vibrated in their frames, seemingly dancing to the top quality music inside.

Completing the set looked unlikely at the beginning of the night, with rhythm guitarist Seeks genuinely suffering with a viral infection, but his professionalism shone through as he saw the show through to the very end, making the very sensible decision not to sing and backing vocals as he could barely speak.

Combining classic covers and original tracks perfectly, the pace flipped between party rock and moody ballad – from the likes of Bon Jovi's 'Wanted Dead or Alive' to original anthem 'Waiting on the Morning Light'.

The highlight of the show had to be the 'Lock and Load' mash up with Nelly's 'Hot in Here', featuring an epic drum solo by George and some pretty impressive rapping by Stevie, who actually managed two verses of the R&B classic by the time the boys performed at the Flying Dutchman on the 24th.

Sporting a new stage area and plenty of room for the crowds to enjoy the music, the Flying Dutchman too has had some impressive work done, making for a much better gig experience. With one whole side of the pub now a dedicated performance area, it's a welcome upgrade, and with friendly bar staff and 'Coronitas' on offer (Tequila slush with a Corona), the venue has improved dramatically.

Following the cancellation of a show in Doncaster for the Friday night, the Flying Dutchman gig was unexpected and fairly last minute, not that you'd be able to tell that with the boys performing to a really high standard as usual.

The gig saw the debut performance of their brand new track 'Halfway Home', a bluesy, soulful song with meaningful lyrics and a fantastic melody. With an unmistakable catchy Bad Touch sing-a-long tag line, it's sure to be another memorable classic.

Rob was his usual brilliant self, excelling particularly during 'Preacher', but looked glad of the rest as he chilled out, sitting down on stage during George's 'Lock & Load' drum solo.

A last-minute set change saw the boys perform 'Superstition' and Bailey expertly kicked the song from Stevie Wonder style to Bad Touch style effortlessly on the Bass guitar.

Finishing with 'Down', the boys have yet another successful gig under their belts, in preparation for their headlining performance on the B2 stage at Brickfest on Bank Holiday Monday before heading into a very busy September.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bad Touch - Reepham Festival & The Crown, Reepham 11/08/2013

Driving down the narrow lanes of rural Norfolk last Sunday afternoon, I was getting a little concerned that this gig wouldn't live up to expectations. Taking a turn down 'Nowhere Lane' didn't help matters. Sat Nav assured me I was just over a mile away from Whitwell Station, the Sunday home of the Reepham Music Festival;  but I couldn't see any signs of life, so began to wonder.

Then, a winding road and a sharp right turn later, I pulled up in a car park and saw the Bad Touch minibus. We were in the right place! The weather was gorgeous and Whitwell Station was heaving - and so not what I was expecting.

In the distance I could hear the sounds of children cheering and the chug of a train, and as I walked through a corridor of unique food and craft stalls, the sound got closer. As an outsider, I wasn't so sure what kind of welcome we'd receive as we approached the large crisp white marquee, but everyone smiled and greeted me like I was one of their own.

The tent itself was unusual to say the least. With a proper floor, chairs and tables and a well-stocked bar, it wasn't quite what you expect from a music festival, where browning grass, plastic cups of one type of ale and standing room only are generally par for the course. This was a very welcome surprise.

We set ourselves up behind the tent on the green for a little while to soak up a few rays and take in our surroundings. It was then that the childrens' cheers from earlier finally made sense – the kids were invited to take a short ride on the tracks on an old engine – that must have made their day – much more fun than the standard fairground rides offered at festivals these days and very in-keeping with the feel of the Reepham Music Festival.

5:10 pm approached and we stationed ourselves at the front of the posh music tent ready for Bad Touch to rock the party. And they did just that, introducing themselves with 'Set the night on fire'. The sound was great and well-organised by the volunteers of the festival, and meant the boys could really concentrate on performing a top quality set, with 'Dr Heartbreak' coming next.

Picture courtesy of Kevin Huckle/Sundance Photography

Stevie made sure that every member of the crowd was on their feet by the time 'Too Late' and 'Waiting on the morning light' reverberated around the station, and, in a set filled with original tracks including 'Mirror Man' and 'Preacher', I think the boys found themselves quite a few new fans of all ages.

Suggesting a revolving stage for next year, the boys attracted the attention of those still revelling in the sunshine behind the marquee, who crowded around behind George to join in the fun. All eyes were well and truly transfixed on the young musicians from just down the road in Dereham; and when the only cover of the set – the final song on the list - was introduced, and Led Zeppelin's epic 'Rock and Roll' filled the room, the boys – and the audience were in their element.

Screaming for more, the crowd was delighted when the boys took their positions one more time and belted out the fantastic 'Down', finishing a pitch-perfect performance off in style. The queues for merchandise were a welcome addition – as was the announcement of another gig that evening – just down the road at the Crown.

Shock Hazard took to the stage following Bad Touch, and although I didn't get to see much of them, by all accounts they went down really well too, closing this fantastic festival for 2013 – and we all really hope it'll be back again next year.

During the break between gigs, we had a walk around the little market town and were impressed with the feel of the place, a real community with traditional pubs, independent stores and a church lining the main street. Settling in to a little nook in the gorgeous Kings Arms pub, we decided food would be a good idea. What a perfect place to choose for a bite to eat and a break away from the crowds. With old-world charm and vast menu choice, we were impressed with the price, the people and the quality of the food. It's no real surprise this place has been in the Good Pub Guide for consecutive years.

So, on it was to the Crown just a mile or so away from the main square. By 8pm the pub was already heaving, and the band's fans, old and new, continued to pile in to check the boys out for the second time in only a few hours.

Setting up in the small games room of the pub, the Bad Touch stage show was a little more cramped than it was at Whitwell Station, but they equally as mesmerising, as the boys were able to connect with the audience who were within touching distance – making for a really raw, gritty performance.

With two 45 minute sets sprinkled with some classic rock covers, including 'Whole lotta Rosie', 'Jumping Jack Flash' and 'Whisky in the Jar', the pub was bouncing, and the heat was intense as the crowd piled into the tight space.

Stevie ensured the rest of the pub was involved in the show by walking through the immediate crowds to perform for the fans who couldn't squeeze into the games room. His stage presence and charisma is magnetic.

Some of the set was repeated from the daytime show, but you could hear those tracks all day and not be bored, and one of these, 'Waiting on the morning light' allowed Bailey to perform an absolute masterclass on the bass guitar. 'Poison in a pretty dress' was dragged from the archives and went down a storm, while Rob excelled on lead guitar in AC/DC's epic 'Sweet child of mine'.

Despite the tight stage area, Seeks played his usual part, with his patched-up Les Paul in hand, he darted around the stage area, and even into the crowd encouraging his bandmates and the audience to give that little bit more, and even treated us all to a lesson in playing the guitar with a 'Coca Cola' glass during the cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Whole lotta love'.

George kept the beat going brilliantly for the whole 90 minutes, and despite clearly struggling with the intense heat, he was obviously enjoying every second, coming into his own during the second set, performing Mr Brownstone perfectly.

It was hard to believe this was a Sunday night – most of the audience, including myself (and some of the band) were in work only a few hours later, but the party atmosphere from the festival had overspilled to the evening, and with the Bad Touch boys giving their all, leaving the Crown early was not an option.

The 50-mile journey home was totally worth it, and I hope to come back next year, hopefully for both days of the event to really appreciate the unique atmosphere of the Reepham Music Festival. A great community of lovely people, a brilliant day was had by hundreds.

For Bad Touch, the hard work continues, with a performance at the Carlton, Lowestoft on Friday. Entry is free so please come along and see a great gig as the boys rack up the shows – and the miles – in preparation for the Quireboys Tour in October.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Vicfest, Martham, Norfolk 04/08/2013

The summer festival season is well underway, and this weekend's Vicfest in Martham may have been one of the least well-known, but it was certainly one of the best, as a wide array of musicians descended on this small village in Norfolk to celebrate the one thing that brings us together in all its forms – music.

Taking place over a weekend in aid of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, Vicfest is refreshingly different. Set in the grounds of the Victoria Inn, the main tent dominates the area, and is well laid out, with a stage at either end and an all-important bar stocked with lagers, ciders and ales half way along the back wall.

Outside the main tent, there's plenty of space for families to set themselves up to enjoy the afternoon, with a couple of food stalls selling decent quality meals at fair prices down one side. Campers who stayed for the whole weekend (and why wouldn't you want to?) had plenty of space on the grounds too, and the facilities themselves were impressive as festivals go.

But, people didn't go just to sit on the grass and enjoy the sunshine, or eat a thai curry from the stalls, they went to enjoy the music. And you couldn't help but love the huge variety of acts that were chosen to play this year.

Covering every genre from rock to folk, and from blues to indie, the event was very well organised. As one band completes its set on the main stage, the acoustic stage gets the thumbs-up from the sound man, and the transfer in instant, no waiting around for another band to set up and sound check, it's seamless and professional.

We joined in the fun on Sunday afternoon, just as Big Black Cadillac were finishing their set, and from what I saw, I'm sorry I missed it. Bringing back the sounds of the 1950's, this four-piece had the audience jiving in the summer sunshine.

Banjax, a local Great Yarmouth acoustic trio were next to impress, with their catchy takes on pop favourites like Paulo Nutini's 'New Shoes' and Katie Perry's 'Hot & Cold', before Cambridge-based garage rock group Violet Bones took to the main stage and belted out original tracks from their album 'Decline of Vaudeville' with passion and power. As the flip between stages continued, Tom Pearce bravely took to the stage armed with his acoustic guitar to take the audience on a journey with his storytelling style and meaningful lyrics.

As the sun started to cool and the evening set in, the sound of the Second Hand Blues reverberated around the festival grounds, and those still enjoying the last warm rays made their way inside the tent to enjoy the show. Having been together for five years, this trio sounds professional and tight and has performed alongside the likes of Terry Reid and Dr Feelgood. With the main stage then free for Bad Touch to set up, Addison's Uncle took to the acoustic stage to provide light relief from the heavy riffs and drum beats, adding a folk-rock sound to the evening's entertainment.

As the audience turned its attention once again to the main stage, the disco lights came on and the PA whirred with the sounds of Bad Touch. Stevie introduced the band with debut single 'Set the night on fire' before belting out AC/DC classic and crowd favourite 'Whole lotta Rosie'. With the growing crowd completely hooked, the time was right for a selection of original tracks, kicking off with the funky Dr Heartbreak showing off Bailey's bass-playing skills to perfection.

On his new drum set, George took charge in the brilliant performance of second single 'Too late' before Seeks took centre stage with a great rhythm guitar introduction to the upbeat party track 'Waiting on the morning light'. Talking directly to his audience, Stevie shone during 'New Day', during which he told the crowd that the new day 'is yours, and it's mine for the taking'.

'Preacher' followed, which saw the boys get serious with a bluesy instrumental, headed up by a mesmerising lead guitar performance by Rob G. The brilliantly written latest single 'Mirror Man' followed, before the party got into full swing with the introduction of some 'good, old fashioned rock & roll' courtesy of the legendary Led Zeppelin and covered to perfection by the Bad Touch boys, who seemed to be enjoying the show as much as the crowd.

With a 45 minute slot at the festival, there was only time for one more song, and it could be no other than fans' favourite 'Down', a track which reminds me of so many classic rock tracks over the decades, catchy and timeless, and one which deserves its own little place in rock history.

The Bad Touch faithful were satisfied, but Vicfest had more to offer, with Bill Downs finishing proceedings with his meaningful, powerful acoustic set before handing over to headlining act Dumbfoundus. The Gorleston-born duo, Noel and Nathan, introduced an unexpected but brilliant reggae sound to the Norfolk coast to bring this amazing weekend festival to a close.

As a first-time visitor to Vicfest, I was not disappointed. The work done by the staff behind the scenes ensured that this festival was professionally run, distinctly different, and a massive breath of fresh Norfolk air.

Bad Touch Live at The Kind Edward VII, Norwich 03/08/2013

Life as a Bad Touch fan is never dull, it doesn't matter how many times you see the boys take to the stage and perform their hearts out, each and every time feels like the first. With their inherent ability to capture and keep the audience captive throughout the whole show – whether it's a 40 minute support set or a 2 hour acoustic session – every single gig brings new observations and experiences, no two performances ever feel the same.

Which is lucky when you're attending two in one weekend, like this week, when the boys were invited to perform at Vicfest on Sunday, but first, they were back at their old stomping ground, and their second home – the King Edward VII, Norwich.

Filled with familiar faces and a handful of new fans, the Eddie first played host to the brilliant Sansara on Saturday evening. Finishing their summer UK tour in Norwich as support for Bad Touch, they're definitely one to watch. The alternative rock four-piece from Bournemouth really impressed, performing tracks from their 'Let it Burn' EP. They remind me of a blend of Nickleback and Black Stone Cherry and lead singer Tom Sawyer has an infectious voice and stage presence, and, speaking to the guys after the show, they really have the right attitude and work ethic to be successful.

The Bad Touch boys had a task on their hands to follow the excellent Sansara, but, as always, the second the sound check started, the atmosphere intensified and the sense of expectation and excitement increased, the boys were really up for this one following a three week break.

Playing tried and tested tracks, including Animal Farm singles 'Set the night on fire', 'Too late' and 'Mirror Man', every single performance between now and October is perfect practice for the upcoming Quireboys Tour – seeing the boys support the rock legends on their 11-date trip around England and Scotland.

The best thing about the show was the off-the-cuff decisions. It's always good when bands assess the expectations of the audience when deciding on a set list, and Bad Touch did just that – changing tracks on stage and maintaining the interest of the crowd while they rolled out the classics, including 'Poison in a Pretty Dress', although, disappointingly (for some!), 'Lock & Load' failed to make an appearance.

Cover versions 'Wanted dead or alive', 'Sweet home Alabama' and 'Rock & Roll' went down a storm, and it's a wonder how the boys managed to see out a full 90 minute set. The Eddie is always a warm venue thanks to the dark walls and tight stage area, but Saturday was stifling, making Bad Touch's energetic stage show all the more incredible.

Saturday also saw the debut performance for George's gorgeous new Natal drum kit and personalised Baskey rug – thankfully the kit has space for the all-important cowbell, and has a really crisp sound allowing for a much sharper beat that will go down really well on tour.

Completing the show with the anthem 'Down', there was little time for rest, as the Bad Touch boys travelled to East Norfolk on Sunday afternoon for an evening performance on the main stage at the brilliant Vicfest Festival in Martham.