GIG: Burt Bacharach
DATE: Wednesday 26th June 2013
VENUE: Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London
COST: £50 plus £1.75 booking fee
OUR VERDICT: Magic Moments at The Southbank

The Royal Festival Hall has been the venue for many a great gig for us. From the numerous Brian Wilson gigs, to the poignant final Glen Campbell visit, it’s a special venue. So it was a fitting venue for us to celebrate more than 50 years of the sophisticated song-writing and arranging of the genius that is Burt Bacharach.

At the age of 85 he strolled on to the stage dressed in trainers, jeans and a brass buttoned jacket that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an airline captain. He looked comfortable, tanned and a little frail.
After acknowledging the warm reception from the audience, Burt and his band, featuring three vocalists, kicked off with “What The World Needs Now”, before the first of many medleys. “Don’t Think It Over”, “Walk On By”, “This Guy’s In Love”, “ “I Say A Little Prayer”, “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” and more…... as far as The Beeb was concerned, he’d had his money’s worth already!

“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” gave singer Josie James a chance to shine. Then Donna Taylor blew Cilla’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart” right out the window. She is a great singer, and the audience let this be known.
Burt chatted away telling stories, and not in a scripted way, telling us about being in his old regular London pub the night before. He moved between the grand piano and electric keyboard for different songs, and often stood up to direct the band. When he wasn’t laughing at his own little jokes,  he would sing along in the background to the songs.

John Pagano featured on “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” before going into the Burt and Elvis Costello collaboration “God Give Me Strength.” It’s good to know that Burt and Elvis are working together again, this time for a musical.

Donna sang the little known song “Waiting For Charlie (To Come Home), written for Etta James. Burt was laughing at the end of it because, as he explained, none of the two of them ever knew how Donna would finish the song.

“My Little Red Book” followed, praising Manfred Mann’s recording, even if they weren’t musically sophisticated. Then we got the first four hits Burt ever had. “Magic Moments”, “The Story Of My Life”, the theme from “The Blob” and “Tower Of Strength”. “The Blob” featured Dennis Wilson on sax and popping his cheek!

A proud moment for Burt was when his son Oliver joined him on-stage for the first time, and he played keyboard on “Make It Easy On Yourself.” When a member of the audience asked for Oliver to come back on, Burt quipped, “He only knows one tune!”

We’d already had an evening full of wonderful hits before the band gave us another medley of Burt’s film songs including “The Look Of Love”, “What’s New Pussycat” and Burt singing a bit of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.”

Still the hits kept coming, including probably the most sexist song ever written, “Wives and Lovers.” Then came the highlight of the night. Burt may not have the greatest voice in the world, but the way he put over “Alfie” before going into “A House Is Not A Home” didn’t leave many dry eyes in the Festival Hall. Then everyone joined him on “That’s What Friends Are For” to finish the set.

There was an encore of course, and much to the credit of this wonderful song-writer, he came back and performed two new songs. They easily stand up next to anything he’s written over his remarkable career. After a request from an audience member, “Baby It’s You” was played before a great sing-a-long version of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” closed the show.

Without a doubt, this was one of the finest gigs we’ve ever been to. It was a privilege to witness a musical genius like Burt Bacharach perform such an astounding range of hits in one evening. It wasn’t till later we realised he didn’t do “24 Hours From Tulsa”. Leaving something like that out shows what a high calibre the rest of the show was. 


GIG: Scared To Be Happy
DATE: Saturday 22nd June 2013
VENUE: 289, the Venue, Great Portland Street, London
COST: £20 advance / £25 on the door
OUR VERDICT: Happy, not scared

Billed as “Scared To Get Happy”, this was the launch party, hosted by Cherry Red Records, for the eponymous 5 CD box set of 80’s Indie bands. There was going to be 10 bands featured in the collection playing in two rooms at the Venue in London.

We made our way through to the smaller room, only to find it jam packed already! Oh well, that was five bands we were never going to see tonight. Back in the main hall we caught two bands Mighty Mighty and The Brilliant Corners. None of them particularly stood out. Part of the blame for this lies with the sound engineer though as the vocals were really muddy and inaudible. Both bands seemed to have reformed especially for this gig.

Duglas T. Stewart
The main attraction for us of course was The BMX Bandits. Although never really having had a hit, they are one of the better known bands on the box set. Featuring a Pearlfisher and a Teenage Fanclub member, The BMX Bandits line up changes each time we see them. The one constant of course, is the charismatic Duglas T. Stewart. For the first time tonight we had someone on stage who knew how to connect with an audience.

Duglas is the Doctor Who that never was. Dressed in a purple striped suit and an orange checked shirt with a fox shaped purse hanging round his neck, he won the audience over just by being there. He told a story about the young keyboard player’s parents meeting at a BMX Bandits gig before he was even born.

Duglas and Mr Apple
Not just a great raconteur, Duglas can perform melancholy songs like “Sad?” and “Serious Drugs” with a real tenderness. “Serious Drugs” is also the title of a wonderful film documentary about the BMX Bandits that has just been released. Highly recommended it is too.

Contained to a 45 minute set, it must have been extremely hard to pick which songs to include. The back catalogue is immense and could fill a whole night.The choice was great though ranging from early songs right through to a couple of tracks from the latest Bandits' offering "BMX Bandits In Space" and left us wanting more.

A BMX Bandits gig is always filled with a warmth and humour that is uniquely “Duglas”. This was no exception. It was well worth coming along for this part of the show alone.
The BMX Bandits

A really pleasant surprise for us was the headlining act, The Primitives. We had enjoyed their latest album, 'Echoes and Rhymes' on a recommendation. This was an album of covers though, so we didn’t know what to expect. There was obviously a fair contingent of Primitives fans here going by the reception they got.

The Primitives' Tracy Tracy
Tracy Tracy looked every bit the star. Dressed in a white bride-like dress and seamed stockings she looked gorgeous. The Beeb had fallen for her before she sang a note! And when they did play…well we may not have known any of their songs, but they were certainly etched on the brain before each one was finished. It’s hard to remember a band with so many catchy hooks in all of their songs.

The one song Minty knew was “Crash”, and she thought that was a cover! This was a terrific set from a great band. There’s a lot of Primitives music for us to catch up with. But we’re looking forward to doing so.


GIG: Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band
DATE: Saturday 15th June 2013
VENUE: Wembley Arena, Wembley, London
COST: £50 plus booking fees (£14.75 in total)

These days there may only be one person in the world that we’d go to a stadium gig for. And that person would be Bruce Springsteen. The Beeb had seen him before and knew just how good he was live. This was to be an eye-opener for Minty though.

Deciding to make a day of it, we booked a hotel nearby so we didn’t need to worry about getting home afterwards. We made our way to Wembley Stadium and eventually got our tickets sorted out, after a nightmare week of phone calls, emails and Facebook fights with Ticketmaster.

It was our first time at Wembley and it really is well laid out. Very easy to find your way around, and it must be great watching a football match here. There’s not a bad view from anywhere in the stadium. The same cannot be said for a concert mind you. We sat at the back, just forward of the right hand side of the stage. But that didn’t matter…we were about to see The Boss.

The mosh pit started to fill early on

The place erupted as the band came on and blasted into “Land Of Hope And Dreams”, then went straight into a number they don’t really perform very often, “Jackson Cage.” The high tempo continued with a powerful “Radio Nowhere”, before slowing things down with an out-take from the Darkness album, “Save My Love”.

Bruce’s energy level was truly astonishing. He kept going into the crowd and took requests from them. On “Hungry Heart” he didn’t sing the first verse because the crowd took over before he could start. He then made us an offer….... he could keep playing requests, or they could do the whole “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” album!”

“Darkness” won the vote overwhelmingly, and the band kicked it off with a rocking “Badlands.” Bruce had explained that the “Darkness” album defined what the work of the E Street Band was about. “Adam Raised A Cain” contributed to the reason why so many fans consider this album to be his best. On “Racing In The Street” Bruce just stood back to take in the beauty of the piano solo Roy Bittan came up with. The crowd seemed stunned by it too. A highlight of the night as far as we were concerned.

The title “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” sets the actual mood for most of the album. Some people may have been happier with the complete “Born In The USA” instead. Minty didn’t know the album, but for The Beeb it was the perfect choice. After finishing with the title track, that’s when the party really started to take off. Special mention has to be made about Nils Lofgren’s gymnastic prowess though. It’s hard to believe he’s had two new hips put in the way he danced and swaggered around on stage.

“Shackled and Drawn” and “Waiting For A Sunny Day” lifted the mood, before the set ended with “The Rising” and “Light Of Day”.

The encore started with a sing-a-long “Pay Me My Money Down”.  It’s a good job Wembley doesn’t have a roof, because it would have been blown off by the power generated by “Born To Run.” After a brace of “Born In The USA” songs, poignancy crept in via a moving collage featuring Clarence and Danny as the band played “10th Avenue Freeze Out”. Clarence’s nephew of course, played a blinder.

Curfew time was closing in, and Bruce had to mention this after what happened at Hyde Park. He was going to make sure the whole song was played this time, and a blistering “Twist And Shout” closed the show. Well ALMOST closed the show. The band had left the stage when Bruce came back and performed, perhaps the most moving song of the night, a wonderful heart string tugging acoustic version of “Thunder Road.” As we said, this was a truly astonishing performance!

Some people later complained about the sound in the stadium. It sounded fine to us, and stadiums aren’t built for sound anyway. It’s not a concert hall. The atmosphere in the place more than made up for any short-comings in sound. Bruce isn’t just a rock star, he genuinely is a religion as far as his most ardent fans are concerned. Well worth spending a day in a stadium for.

The Bruce night didn't end at the stadium for us though. We headed into a nearby Irish pub afterwards and had a great couple of hours, all singing our heads off to songs by Bruce and other classic rock bands. There was a great buzz about the place and it was funny to see groups of fans dressed like Bruce did on "Born In The USA", when they probably weren't born when the album came out!

The stadium was packed


GIG: Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band
DATE: Friday 14th June 2013
VENUE: Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Rod, London
COST: £40
OUR VERDICT: Yoko o.k.

One thing was for sure…this was never going to be a “Minty and the Beeb” review. Wild horses couldn’t drag Minty to a Yoko Ono gig! For The Beeb, just seeing someone so hugely inspirational in concept art and world culture in general would be enough.

With a ticket secured for Yoko’s Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall by the kindly Stephen Bailey from the Beatles Shop in Liverpool, we met up on a glorious sunny evening at the Southbank. Before the gig had started Stephen had already been swamped by half a dozen female friends. “Animal magnetism” he explained!

We took our seats and the programme started with a specially made film featuring Yoko’s past. From film of her as a child in Japan, to her place as a peace activist and a performance artist, this had everyone hyped up before she even appeared on stage.

The Plastic Ono Band was always a concept as well as a band, and tonight, instead of Eric Clapton we had Yoko's son Sean leading the band musically. The band strolled onto the RFH stage followed by Yoko in her trademark black hat. The reception she got let her know a lot of the prejudices she faced in the past were well and truly gone. 

Looking ridiculously healthy for an octogenarian, tonight’s set sees Yoko largely forsaking her generally perceived  “yelping and screaming” vocal delivery, for a more laid back and sympathetic take that really suits the grooves each song achieves.  “Moonbeams” opens the show, and most of the set is taken from her album “Between My Head and the Sky.” A highlight of the set is when she’s joined by Peaches for a rendition of “Yes, I’m a Witch.” Girl Power at its scariest!

Sean said, “Mum, it’s your hit…you’ve got to play it”, before blasting into “Walking On Thin Ice.” For the encore the band are joined again by Peaches, and they have the audience yelling along to “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow)”. Forty odd years ago I could never have imagined standing a couple of feet away from Yoko Ono and singing along with her.

Not only that, the audience and I got to be part of one of her concept pieces. Everyone was given a little torch on the way in, and when Yoko came back out she flashed her own torch in time with her chanting of “I…Love…You.” Part of her ONOCHORD art-piece, we all returned the chant to her, with love.

Yoko came across as very witty and really appreciative of the audience reaction to her. It’s taken a while, but people around the world now appreciate what Yoko had done over the years. Not only in all that she and John did for peace, but her own strong feminist stance as well.


GIG: Johnny's Rock & Roll Show - feat The Zombies & Argent
DATE: Sunday 2nd June 2013
VENUE: Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, Busks
COST:  £20.00 plus £2.90 booking fee
OUR VERDICT: Hopefully not the last time

This was a last minute booking for us. We found out about this gig the night before heading off to Cardiff for the weekend. Booked on Thursday night, we spent the weekend in Cardiff and had a mad rush back on Sunday for the gig. The gig was Johnny's Rock and Roll Show, with some local bands plus headliners Argent. Teenager Johnny Beer Timms broke his neck while he was attempting a backward somersault on a garden trampoline at the home of a friend in 2011 and is now paralysed. The proceeds from this gig will go some way to help getting the family home adapted to Johnny’s needs in the future.

The Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury is a stunning piece of architecture. It’s very unusual in its shape, and for a change, a new building with real character.

First up was a guitar duo, Danny Prendergast and Jerry Playle who played a nice set of instrumental, classic type numbers to get things underway.

Following on from them we had the first band of the night, The Moon Dogs. This was a blues band featuring the father of the young guy for whom tonight’s gig was a benefit for. We were treated a few classic blues songs that started off with a slow, bluesy take of Chuck Berry’s “Nadine.” Add in a bit of Dr Feelgood and some Jimmy Reed, this was not a bad set at all. For the last number the band were joined by Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond on drums.

The next act was a young band, Henry Parker and the Velvet Loons. This was when the evening’s event really took off. Henry is an excellent guitarist, and his songs, although certainly hard rockers still managed to sound like great pop songs. Great choruses that really stuck in your head and the set finished with a real old fashioned dual guitars war! This is great band that we’ll be keeping an eye open for more gigs.

Turning the night into a sing-a-long for the first time tonight was part of Marillion, guitarist Steve Rothery and singer Steve Hogarth, whose son Niall filled in on drums. With Hogarth Snr on keyboard duty, they kicked off with the old Marvin Gaye hit “Abraham, Martin and John.” We also had a stripped down “Sugar Mice” by Marillion and a particularly good vocal on David Bowie’s “Life On Mars.” This was a set of songs that the band seemed to dig, as they finished with a rousing, audience participating “All The Young Dudes.” This was a very well performed set with some terrific guitar from the other Steve. Marillion fans will be kicking themselves on missing this gig.

A big and pleasant surprise for us was that the advertised Colin Blunstone set was actually going to be THE ZOMBIES instead. We couldn’t believe our luck. They came on and fired into four songs in a row, without a pause or a word from the band and showed how much they were up for this gig. Colin stole the show again with his wonderful vocals. “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted”, including the customary fantastic guitar solo from Tom Toomey, had the audience singing along again, and “I Don’t Believe In Miracles” answered the question The Beeb had, of who, if anyone, would actually sing this one tonight.

 Being such a short set, what we got was like a greatest hits show of Colin and The Zombies back catalogue. Having seen The Zombies quite a few times in recent years, a great bonus though was a live debut (for us) of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me” that segued into Sam Cooke’s "Bring It On Home.” Having recorded this way back in 1965, the band certainly dug deep and pulled a cracker out of the hat with this one for sure. The set ended of course, with the perennial radio favourite, “She’s Not There.”

The Zombies
Before ARGENT took to the stage, The Beeb’s night had already been made before the gig when he met drummer Robert Henrit in the foyer and had a chat with him. Argent had been the first band he ever saw live, and over the years, Robert was the only one from the band he hadn’t met. Once again, like everyone else in the band, he turned out to be really nice and generous with his time.

The Marshall stack that had been sitting on stage unused all night was soon called into action by the ridiculously healthy looking Russ Ballard on the opening song “It’s Only Money”. Rod’s virtuoso keyboard playing was highlighted by a rollicking “Keep On Rolling”.

Russ acknowledges the fans in the front row

Just like The Zombies' set, we were given a greatest hits show, including perhaps Russ’s best known song “Since You’ve Been Gone”. “Hold Your Head Up” and “God Gave Rock And Roll To You” once again had the audience singing along with great gusto.

With little time for rehearsal Russ explained, the band came back for an encore and treated us to a song they used to make last 20 minutes in the old days, a cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do.” This was a good work out for all of the band who seemed relaxed and happy all the way through the gig.

A fantastic job done, with credit going to a lot of people who made this gig happen for a very worthy cause.

Argent take a well deserved accolade from the audience


GIG: International Pop Overthrow London – Day 3
DATE: Sunday 26th May 2013
VENUE: Surya, 156 Pentonville Road, London
COST: £8 charge on the door
OUR VERDICT: A mod blast
This is blog is intended to be a way for us to capture our personal memories from all the gigs we go to see. The International Pop Overthrow in Liverpool hosts over 130 artists, across 3 stages, ranging from solo acts with an acoustic guitar to full on rock bands covering different music styles from folk, pop, rock and everything in between!!!! Whilst we can’t see every artist / band, we try to catch as many as we can. Some we like, some we love, some are pure nuggets and some are just not our cup of tea. This is just our personal opinion of the acts we see through the IPO festival, highlights and lowlights included. If there’s a band we are not fond of, do still check them out as tastes differ and you could have a different opinion from us.

Surya on a Sunday afternoon is extremely quiet, and at 2pm when the third day was due to kick off, hardly anyone was around! With one band already unable to play later in the day, there was flexibility to start a little later, giving the sound man a chance to get everything in order and the bar staff to recover from their Saturday night and check in!

Proceedings got underway with Steve Somerset (from The Shadow Kabinet) with a set of acoustic numbers. “What Am I Supposed To Do” was a lovely start, and with a touch of echo on the mic, the melody just oozed over you. The rest of the set kept up that high standard and ending on “These Days” where Steve sang about his ‘heart lying on the floor’ you felt the emotion. Although the audience was fairly small, each and every one of them were very appreciative.

Steve Somerset

Dave Rave gets the party going
Dave Rave and his entourage had arrived and the party started! With Mark Foley on guitar and Simon Nelson on bass, and a drummer, Dave Rave stormed through a great set and what a good atmosphere there was. Guest guitarist Marc Olivier (who, with Simon makes up The Plastic Heroes) contributed on three songs, adding his own style.

With The Beeb spotted in the audience, Dave Rave did an impromptu version of Brian Wilson’s “Love and Mercy” and The Beeb was invited up on stage to deliver some harmonies for the last half of the song. Lovely stuff.

Other songs in the set were the great powerpop iconic songs, “Shake Some Action” and “Let’s Shake”. Again, a small audience but one that really enjoyed what they heard and saw.

Mark Mikel

A late change to the schedule and US artist, and the man behind The Pillbugs, Mark Mikel was up next. With a 12 string acoustic, his voice was almost Bowie-esque, confirmed when three or four songs into his set, he did a Bowie cover which slotted in nicely.

Not only is Mark a good singer, he has a great sense of humour which we saw in between songs. Usually with just an acoustic set, the stage can be a bit big but this was not the case today. He filled the stage with his music. On the strength of his performance, we bought a Pillbugs CD.

These Reigning Days from Torquay have their own tour van! A powerful trio, the strongest member of the band was the drummer, although all his tattoos didn’t match the image of the paisley shirt! He was really energetic and played the floor tom a lot, which Minty liked. Not a bad set, but again a thin crowd so they sounded a lot louder than was necessary.

These Reigning Days

Next up were Shush and we took the opportunity to pop upstairs to the bar to grab a drink. How loud were this band? Even upstairs, we could hardly hear each other talk – God knows what it was like down by the stage! This was a band fronted by a girl, and we felt was quite early Suzy Quatro with heavy guitar.

Not wanting to see three girls prancing to backing tapes, we skipped the next band, Ellamore and took the opportunity to get some warm London sunshine and some dinner.

When we got back, The Reflections were setting up. We had seen this band a couple of weeks ago at the Liverpool IPO, but had no problem seeing them again. The set we had seen in Liverpool was a bit different to that we had seen in 2012, being more psychedelic. Tonight, the bass was very heavy, causing the keyboard to start to vibrate off its stand from time to time, and the drums were quite light in contrast, but a great beat was maintained throughout. We saw a tight set, with a very psychedelic keyboard sound, which we liked. Their final song “Last Chance To Turn Around” sounded great (as it had in Liverpool) and is now firmly a favourite for us. Another strong song was “Lonesome Man”. No doubt about it - the new songs and new style are great.

The Reflections

The Penguin Party
The Penguin Party were up next, with a slight change to their line up versus what we had seen last year – a different drummer and the introduction of a keyboard player (who had amazingly long hair). This band have fun and you can tell this through their songs – one about a transvestite roofer and another about the commute to work, where you could really feel the “rage and frustration” coming through. Although if everyone played guitar with as much gusto these guys, there would be no pent up frustration in the world!

Their sound is quite ska influenced, almost Madness-y. The lead man, Dave Milligan, is not shy on stage and has a bit of a Bruce Springsteen look about him. This band is quirky, have good lyrics, have a slot for the banjo (although we could hardly hear it) and are funny too. At one stage Dave proclaimed ”It’s hot up here – we should become a surf band so we can wear shorts!” We liked the new line up, and we loved their set.

The next act was Maria Evangelou, dressed in red chiffon, with a band and two backing singers she took to the stage. Apparently they only had two week’s rehearsal as they were a late addition to the IPO schedule, and taking that into consideration they played a good set.
Maria Evangalou with her band and backing singers

Maria is very influenced by Amy Winehouse and Nina Simone. Indeed she did a cover of a Nina Simone song (the song from the Virgin Airlines ad), which was nice enough, but which we felt would have been strengthened had the two backing vocalists contributed on the song, especially at the end to give it added dimensions.

She also did a song which was self-penned, but it sounded just like the previous Nina Simone song mixed with Sam Brown’s “Stop”. Maria certainly has depth and strength to her voice but we felt she is certainly vie-ing towards a solo career. From the way she treated the band and backing singers (constantly referred to “me” and “I” all the time rather than “we” and “us”) we really felt she is not intending to take her band or backing singers with her should she hit the big time. Nonetheless, an enjoyable set.

The Past Tense kept things simple – no pedals and they gave us a set of great Mod Powerpop music. Not for the first time during this IPO, we heard traces of “My Sharona” in the drumbeat during one song. Their set was fast-paced, tuneful and pretty good! The audience gave them a really rowdy reaction and they down really well.
The Past Tense

The mod powerpop pace was maintained with The Proviso’s. They certainly looked the part, with the keyboard player being a dead ringer for Paul Weller, and we heard a great set. The vocals were very good, and we could hear the keyboard. We particularly liked the song they finished with “She’s Got It All Going On”, which started with a bit of a slow tempo building to a fantastic crescendo to end on. Great stuff and a good choice to end the set with.

The Proviso's
Our IPO came to an end with the last band for the night, The Soundcasters. Another IPO favourite we have seen this band many times and have seen them grow from a young group of guys to a team of great musicians and singers. Their songs are sharp, toe tapping tunes which take you on a musical journey across a multitude of musical influences from pop, to reggae to ska to jazz, all in the same song and they deliver each and every one with a high level of energy. Their set included a number of songs from their recently released album (which we bought) which were great to hear, and they ended on the fantastic song, “French Habit” which is a track from their new album, but one they have included in the their set for a while now. We certainly ended our IPO on a high.

The Soundcasters

After all was said and done, and we always enjoy the IPO, we're not convinced that Surya is the venue for it. The staff were grand, but the fact that the bar is upstairs away from the action, does lead to everyone rushing up as soon as a band finishes, leaving the place empty for the next band.
Roll on next year though.


GIG: International Pop Overthrow London – Day 2
DATE: Saturday 25th May 2013
VENUE: Surya, 156 Pentonville Road, London
COST: £8 charge on the door
OUR VERDICT: More hits than misses

This is blog is intended to be a way for us to capture our personal memories from all the gigs we go to see. The International Pop Overthrow in Liverpool hosts over 130 artists, across 3 stages, ranging from solo acts with an acoustic guitar to full on rock bands covering different music styles from folk, pop, rock and everything in between!!!! Whilst we can’t see every artist / band, we try to catch as many as we can. Some we like, some we love, some are pure nuggets and some are just not our cup of tea. This is just our personal opinion of the acts we see through the IPO festival, highlights and lowlights included. If there’s a band we are not fond of, do still check them out as tastes differ and you could have a different opinion from us.

First up today was the remarkable New Zealander, Glen Aitken, and what a box of goodies this performer had to offer. His vast array of guitar and looping pedals was matched only by his very fine songs.

Glen Aitken

Glen's pedals and loops

It was amazing to watch how Glen managed to use his guitar and voice to sound like a whole band. This wasn’t just novelty value though, as entertaining as it was to watch, his songs were great too. He rather humbly forgot to mention that he’d been a previous winner of the Roland UK Loopstation Championship, and that Paul McCartney had offered him a publishing deal as well as playing bass on his first single.

This was a lesson on how pedals SHOULD be used (take note Phenomenal Cat!), and CAN be used to great effect. He also had a lovely voice, best heard ironically enough on his last song that used minimal effects! Not a bad start to the day.

We’ve seen Nigel Thomas a few times over the years, with his old band The Foxes, as well as a solo artist. The set today started with just Nigel and his acoustic guitar, before the rest of the band joined him. Joining at the very last second was the keyboard player, who walked into the room just as their first number was about to start! This was very much a Nigel Thomas focused set with a tendency for the songs to start acoustically with the drum and bass joining part way through. The regular drummer had to earlier pull out of the gig due to an injury so the bass player took over the sticks while a stand in bassist played everything else after the first song. All things considered, the band did very well indeed under the circumstances. Another entertaining set.
Nigel Thomas

Having the lead track from her EP play-listed by BBC Radio 2, will not have done Emma Stevens much harm. They’ve been very supportive of her. She was certainly very bright, sparkly and cheerful enough, seemingly unfazed by the small technical problems that were experienced. She looked very much like Phoebe out of friends and we hoped (with no luck) that she’d do the classic “Smelly Cat” from the TV show!

Emma Stevens

Emma played ukulele for parts of her set (when technical issues allowed), augmented by guitar, cello, violin and drums. The Eva Cassidy look-a-like drummer did very well considering Emma forgot to put the drums in the van! Totally un-phased by technical issues, Emma put on a really good vibe show, smiling all the way through, and it was obvious the bass player was really enjoying it all too. With all the support she’s receiving, Emma should have a big future on the traditional folk scene. It’s easy to imagine her playing on the Transatlantic Sessions TV programme one day.

An old favourite band from the Liverpool IPO from a few years ago was The Fore. This Merseybeat/Beatles obsessed band were led by Spencer Hannabuss, who now fronts The 286. The last time we saw him he looked like a young boy in his first band. Now he’s matured as much as his music has. This new band are not too far removed from ELO, sporting two violins and a cello. This leads to a great mix of pop and classical music. Some of it would be really well suited to a film score it was so atmospheric. The song “Illusion” had definite shades of McCartney’s “Jet” about it, and ”Mother Sunday” had very strong backing vocals provided by the drummer. Adding some female vocals to help Spencer with some of the higher notes could be a bonus. This music is a far cry from what The Fore used to do, and it’s whetted our appetite for an album from this band.

The 286

King Bathmat would seem to be unapologetically Prog Rock purveyors. Quite why they play at a “Pop” music festival is uncertain, but that seems to be the way of the IPO these days. A good enough band in their own genre, although singer/guitarist John Bassett looked as if he’d just walked off a building site! He was a good guitarist though. There was definite nods to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple in the music, especially with the organ being played. Probably at this point the band had the hardest hitting drummer of the IPO. A really good prog rock band that had the good grace to acknowledge they felt a bit out of place at a “pop” festival.
King Bathmat

Nathan Persad
Another former member of The Fore was on next. Nathan Persad looked like Louis Theroux with a guitar in his hand. The word “quirky” best describes him. He seemed to be a bag of nerves - either that or it was just nervous energy that prevented him from standing still for a second.

His songs are very 60’s influenced and quite funny at times. He sang songs about Rachel from his high school and a tribute song to 60’s girl singers making come-backs, titled fittingly…...”Comeback Queen”. He is obviously a Beach Boys fan because he threw in a cover of “Darlin’” too.

All the way through his set he’d thank the audience in an Elvis “Thank you very much” voice after each song. He also had a strange habit of talking and pointing to an imaginary person at the side of the stage for some reason. Nathan finished his set with a really nice tribute song to the 50’s.

Three Minute Tease is led by Californian psychedelic cult hero, Anton Barbeau. Ably assisted by former Soft Boys, Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor, this is very much Anton’s project and he played some great psyche guitar. Some of the set was a bit dis-jointed, starting and stopping once or twice, but again, a pretty good, stylistic rock band. It’s easy to see he’s a fan of XTC and Frank Zappa. A good set.

Three Minute Tease

Wendy Ip
Wendy Ip was up against it from the start with technical difficulties. Her brand new keyboard from the US conked out because it was the wrong voltage for the UK, and no-one could find an adaptor to make it work. With a lot of time being wasted trying to fix the problem, she carried on gamely with just a mic. It was a bit embarrassing for her that she didn’t recognise the tune that the band were playing in the background to keep a semblance of a gig going, as everyone tried to get the keyboard to work!
Wendy did have a fine clear vocal though and her songs were quite bouncy. The last song, also her new single, had a great “My Sharona” drum beat going. Wendy was quite professional in the way she kept going while fighting against the gremlins.

Probably for the first time at this London IPO we got a band, who if they were walking up the street you’d say “Those guys are in a band!” They looked the part, and for The Silver Factory, Mod haircuts, three Rickenbacker’s and Paisley pattern shirt was the order of the day. When you see a Rickenbacker, especially a 12 stringed one, you expect jingly jangly music, and we were not to be let down here. This was thirty minutes of great sounding psychedelic pop where even David Bash contributed, playing the maraccas.

The only slight disappointment was the vocals. It was hard to put your finger on what was wrong, but the lead singer’s vocal seemed a bit muddy in the mix. This sort of music deserves great harmonies, and speaking to the Steve Marriott look-a-like guitarist afterwards, he acknowledged that fact. There was nothing wrong with the singer actually, he was a good front man, jumping off the stage and dancing with the audience. The Silver Factory are the best “new” band we’ve heard so far at the IPO, and listening to their recordings since we got back after the gig, there ARE great harmonies. This Leicester band only had vinyl with them unfortunately, so we couldn’t buy anything, but we can’t wait for their album to be released on CD!
The Silver Factory

Ben Jones
Finishing the night off for us was the very manic Ben Jones and The Rifle Volunteers who had brought a great supporting crowd along with them too. Ben is a very bendy, energetic and versatile performer, jumping all over the stage and only slowing things down a bit for “Promises, Promises”.

He’s a great performer and an excellent guitarist too. Genre shifting comes easy to Ben, as well as interacting with the audience in a comedic way at times. This is a performer who has no use for pedals it seems. Tonight it was just a Gretsch he used for the whole gig. Throwing Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in the middle of the set again works brilliantly. As does his version of “Gloria” stuck in the middle of his own song “Stop.”

Special mention has to be made for the keyboard player who does an amazing job in supporting Ben, especially on the vocals. It would have been the icing on the cake if Ben had managed to bring his new album “Shangrila” along for the merch table, but apparently it was stuck in a delivery depot somewhere!
Ben, with his Rifle Volunteers

After Ben Jones, we nipped upstairs for a while to get away from the noise. We came back down to an empty room for the last act of the night, Et Tu BrucĂ©. It wasn’t their fault that the crowd had gone, but they made it seem like it was OUR fault with all the moaning and winging they did in between songs. Instead of using the gig as a rehearsal for their US tour supporting The Zombies, they made it quite clear they didn’t want to be there at all. The fact that they made The Monkees look like Joy Division, took away from the songs completely. The might be a good band, in fact they MUST be if they’re doing The Zombies gigs, but they should learn to enjoy their own music even if they are playing to an empty house. Poor attitude for a band to have. On their Facebook page, the big sell for getting people to come along and support them was… “We're playing, so you might as well come along.” Says it all really!

Et Tu Bruce


GIG: International Pop Overthrow London – Day 1
DATE: Friday 24th May 2013
VENUE: Surya, 156 Pentonville Road, London
COST: £7 charge on the door
OUR VERDICT: Eased in gently
This is blog is intended to be a way for us to capture our personal memories from all the gigs we go to see. The International Pop Overthrow in Liverpool hosts over 130 artists, across 3 stages, ranging from solo acts with an acoustic guitar to full on rock bands covering different music styles from folk, pop, rock and everything in between!!!! Whilst we can’t see every artist / band, we try to catch as many as we can. Some we like, some we love, some are pure nuggets and some are just not our cup of tea. This is just our personal opinion of the acts we see through the IPO festival, highlights and lowlights included. If there’s a band we are not fond of, do still check them out as tastes differ and you could have a different opinion from us.

Surya - This year's venue

Chandelier of Bic Pens

The London IPO has moved to a new venue this year, SURYA on Pentonville Rd, after the closure of The Bull and Gate in Kentish Town. The new venue proclaims itself to be the “world’s first ecological club.” The first evidence if this is a striking chandelier that catches your eye when you enter the premise. On closer inspection you discover it’s actually made out of Bic pens! Very eco-friendly.

Mick Terry

First act on tonight was Mick Terry, armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and an arsenal of clever, witty and poignant songs. One song in particular, “Emily Says”, seemed very familiar to us, although we don’t think we’d seen Mick before.

Another great song was “Pop Is A Dirty Word”. This name-checked loads of our favourite artists and songs, including The Beach Boys’ “Sail On Sailor” and James Taylor. Mick was very comfortable with an audience and chatted away in between songs with witty anecdotes.

He ended on an audience choice – a cover of a Big Star song. We were so impressed by Mick we ended up buying his CD. London IPO was off to a great start.

Next on was a duo that went under the name of Statuesque. This seems to be a vehicle for the song-writer Stephen Manning. With just an acoustic guitar and a cello, this looked quite promising to The Beeb’s ears especially as this set up can be a wonderful combination aurally. Unfortunately Stephen’s high-pitched warbling’s were reminiscent of Joe Pasquale at times. He also looked like a rabbit that had been caught in the headlights, with the headlights in this case being a spotlight up above him.

Semion are a four piece band whose songs sounded not too bad. Trouble was though, it was difficult to hear much in the way of vocals, not helped by a singer who appeared to be afraid of getting electrocuted by the mic he stood so far away from it. The band also had trouble with a Rickenbacker that was constantly going out of tune for some reason. They have a Teenage Fanclub kind of sound and had the sound quality been a bit better, we might have really got into their set.


With Spygenius, we knew we were going to get a great set having seen them so many times before. Unlike Liverpool, guitarist and song-writer Peter Watts was using his Italia 12-string for this set, particularly effective on “California Sunshine”. Unfortunately sound problems occured again, but the band's professionalism shone through with a quick re-jig of the running order to allow the sound man to work his magic and get everything up and running again.


Peter & Ruth share a mic
It was also bass player, Ruth’s birthday, and she played the set in pair of comedy Elton John type spectacles with guitars on them, a gift from David and Rina.

Once the problems with Ruth’s mic had been sorted, we experienced the full flavour of the band’s vocals which work really well together. The set ended with a quite stunning version of “Conybeare’s Island” from the highly recommended album Songs From The Devils Typist.

Phenomenal Cat
 Phenomenal Cat win the prize for the most inappropriate moniker at this year’s IPO. This six piece included a trumpet and sax player, and a bass player who was ready to give birth shortly. The only thing phenomenal about them was the volume the singer played his guitar at. This unfortunately mitigated hearing any of the actual songs! From what we could make out, it was as if every song had been written around a different guitar pedal effect. No actual song was complete without totally unnecessary jarring breaks everywhere.

Their set had started with one of the band castigating people in the bar upstairs for not coming down to support and hear them play. When their set finished, the band disappeared to the bar upstairs with their mates, leaving the next band unsupported by them! We found that just a tad too hypocritical.

Mothboxer hadn’t particularly done much for us in Liverpool when we saw them there. Again, the problem for us is the use of pre-recorded tracks. Whilst we could understand the tracking of the bass (their bass player was away on holiday) for this gig, they also had rather unnecessary drum tracks played alongside a perfectly adequate drummer, and when a song got going you couldn’t actually hear the track anyway! However, having heard them again, Mothboxer’s songs sounded a bit better than they did in Liverpool. With only two guitars and a drummer, you will have to concede that you won't replicate a multi-track album recording when you play live and the songs may have been better served if the guitars played counter-point to each other, instead of both playing the same thing most of the way through. Having said that, his set was definitely an improvement on Liverpool though.

 Last out of the blocks on day 1 were The Lightwings, who made this first night of the London IPO well worth staying around for. This four-piece from London served up a fine selection of prime pop songs. To us, THIS kind of music is what the IPO is all about. Stand out songs where “Who Pulled The Trigger” and “Must Be Luck.”

With just two of the band singing, they managed to make it sound as if they were ALL harmonising. The guitars all sounded crystal clear and you could hear every note played perfectly. The drummer was great too and worked brilliantly with the bass player. A set of classic sounding songs, any one of which deserves to be a hit. Another CD purchased, and we look forward to their album when it’s released.

The Lightwings