Monthly Archives: February 2013

IV Play – ten years on.

`Did you all have fun growing up`. By coincidence these words were playing on my Ipod as I began to write this.

When this song was played live I often found myself muttering, `No,` under my breath. My teens, to be frank, weren’t much fun. However my twenties were rather better and an important part of this was down to a band called IV Play.

The back story as I remember it was that Nader Mabadi (guitar) and Jonathan Dawson (drums) had already played in one band together when Nader saw his friend Liam Gray – primarily a football fan – sing karaoke one night. If Liam didn’t realise what a powerful soulful voice he had then Nader soon made him aware. Matt Ramsden, only seventeen at the time, was recruited as bassist and the IV Play story began.

At the same time I had just completed my first year working at the same local supermarket as Liam and Nader and was starting to feel I might be salvaging something from the wreckage of my teenage nervous breakdown. However I was still somewhat naive and raw for my age. I have no qualms about putting something so personal on here – this is what made me.

In January 2003 I turned 22. That same month IV Play entered the Carringtons Battle Of The Bands. They progressed through several heats to reach the final. It was always my intention to see the band but it wasn’t until the final, held – as closely as I can determine – ten years ago yesterday that I finally made it to a show.

There were three bands in the final that night. IV Play, Audiorgasm and Mulholland (if anybody knows what became of these bands please let me know). Audiorgasm won the judges vote with IV Play last, however the audience vote reversed it. To be entirely fair IV Play weren’t quite yet the band they later became and I can understand Audiorgasm feeling slightly short changed. However this shows that, even in their earliest days, IV Play could motivate their fanbase.

A few memories from that night; I remember that the album Californication by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers was playing as the band celebrated the triumph – I got a hug from a mad old lady who used to go to the gigs.

So what made this band so special? Why did they change my life so much that, almost nine years after they split, there are only four bands (REM, the Rolling Stones, U2 and Queen) that rank higher in my estimation? Why should anybody care?

IV Play were a pop, rock band. They had to live down being described as a boy band on Yorkshire Television (a story for another time – suffice to say that a Geordie friend of mine and theirs had a field day taking the piss) but the pop was important. Their music was as much about the songs as the sound. Nader was the songwriter; he was passionate and literate and wasn’t about to pretend otherwise. IV Play’s best songs were often the love songs (Pick A Letter, Seventeen, Mr William) which capture that crack between adolescence and adulthood but there were darker songs (Promised Lies, Cloned) that asked deeper questions. You could dance and sing along to a lot of them (I remember – second gig in – dancing to the recording of Pick A Letter with another work colleague who would himself later change my life) but also listen to them carefully in the privacy of your own space. These were songs that struck a chord with an audience of varying ages who were willing to travel long distances just to hear them.

Unfortunately IV Play were fated to record little and only six songs were ultimately committed to tape. Many more exist only in a memory that grows more distant every year. It’s just an old story now – but that’s the thing with old stories. They have to be retold so they don’t get forgotten.

Of course everybody involved has moved on. The past is the past for a reason. And the story didn’t end with IV Play. Liam would knock on fame’s mighty door a second time with D’Nile, Nader would announce his retirement only to return with Ticbox and later Faces Of Dorian. The Recovery story – co starring Matt Ramsden – is just beginning.

And yet, and yet. Wouldn’t it be good to have an IV Play record with all those great songs, just so you could dust it off from time to time and relive a time, a place, a moment? Fate denied us that, so we’ll have to make do with the great jukebox of the memory instead.

I’ll try to share some more IV Play memories as I check off the anniversaries. In the meantime – and hopefully Nader won’t mind – I’ll leave you with my favourite IV Play lyric.

`With my mind’s army ten thousand in size, go colour the rainbow and light up the skies`.

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Littlecrazy supported by Recovery, Paris Nightclub 22/2/2013 – searching for the heart of rock and roll.

Another Recovery gig, another AMZ1981 blog patting his mates on the back. That’s what I’m determined NOT to write here.

I’ll start with the stats, if only to get them out of the way. This was Recovery’s fourth gig overall, their second with a settled line up and the first outside of Harrogate. Playing away is always a challenge as that lifeline of friends and family who will support no matter what is – inevitably – cut. Or at least that’s the way it normally works. Recovery – clearly not ones to duck a challenge – put on a coach and marshalled the troops. The result was a packed out venue for the benefit of the support band.

Your blogger, not a fan of buses, made his own way. By way of sharing the laugh, I had an hour long mystery tour of Sheffield in an Arctic wind trying to follow directions that were designed for car drivers not pedestrians. Finding the hotel should have been the hard bit but it then took me half an hour to navigate the five minute walk to the venue. I blame the street signs in Sheffield (or lack of). But I made it.

So why travel to another city and fork out for overnight accomodation just to see a band I’ve seen several times before already and who only have four songs and a few cover versions (to be fair to myself I’d already made my arrangements before the coach was arranged)? I’ve often said that the greatest band you’ll ever see could be playing the gig of their lives anywhere – and it’s your responsibility to be there. A new venue, a new city, a new crowd – all these things can change the dynamic. Also, as a famous poet once said, there are no strangers, just friends we have not met yet. If you go to a gig, whether it’s an international superstar or local heroes, you may be in a room of strangers but you know you share at least one thing in common.

I’ve never been to Sheffield before, or at least not to the city centre. It’s a university city and as such has a young population. There is something about youth, something that’s ultimately lost and never quite recaptured. These are troubled times; the world economy in ruins and too many young people chasing too few jobs. Nothing is certain anymore, doubt stalks the streets of every city like a starving dog. And yet – there is hope. The sense that we’re still on the edge of something; that what they say about the darkest hour is true.

Imagine somebody, anybody, anywhere, lighting a single candle and holding it aloft for the world to see. Maybe, just maybe, somebody else brings a candle and uses the first candle to light it. Then another two people bring candles … Of course it’s most likely the flame will just consume the candle and go out but if a million candles were lit – how long could that flame burn? In the same way, imagine one man sings a tune. A stranger passing by hears and picks up the same tune. Maybe, just maybe, the whole world might eventually sing along.

On Friday 22nd February 2013 Recovery (Jonny Skinner, Matt Ramsden, Matt Jones, Mike Holmes) went to Sheffield to hold up their candle. For me that’s what this is all about and why I will continue to go to gigs in Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool or wherever until such time as my own flame gutters out.

So Recovery, in Sheffield, five songs – four originals, one cover. Every gig the sound gets tighter and the songs gain in force – probably because I’m getting to know them better. Sunrise is my favourite. I suspect the coach returned with a lot more people now along for the ride.

Littlecrazy were the headline act. I don’t know an awful lot about the background of this band but their line up, featuring two female vocalists, is enough to distinguish them from the pack. Rather than waste excess waffle (there’s enough of that above) I’ll give you a link to their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Littlecrazy/130187337057959?ref=ts&fref=ts which in turn has a link to their EP on Itunes. It is worth getting.

Littlecrazy have a powerful sound that really needed more visuals and a bigger stage. Recovery are unashamedly a no frills lad band, Littlecrazy are more theatrical and there’s nothing wrong with either. I’m not sure what the cause was but there seemed to be issues with the sound (first the second guitar went off, then the backing vocals were inaudible) and the crew had to keep fighting their way to and from the stage – annoying for the audience. Unfortunately it seemed as though tensions were spilling over at the end. But shit will happen and there is grist at the mill of rock and roll.

One final note, Littlecrazy feature Andy Crick who was obviously part of the original Recovery line up and becomes one of five people I’ve seen play in three different bands (Nader Mabadi, Steve Mosby, Matt Ramsden and Jonny Skinner being the other four).

Battle Of The Bands 3/2/2013 – Rehab

Starring Krave/ Dark Days Of December/ Recovery/ Dimension

Strangely I’ve only been to a Battle Of The Bands twice in my life. The first time was February 2003 when I went to Carringtons to support IV Play (featuring Matt Ramsden). Ten years and thankfully few grey hairs later I went to Rehab last Sunday to support Recovery (featuring Matt Ramsden). That’s stretching a point as I didn’t know Matt personally in February 2003 but there’s still the sense of a cycle repeating.

This was Recovery’s third gig and the first with this particular line up (Matt Jones was introduced to me as the third and hopefully final bassist). It was also their first test; one of four bands each with equal support and the same desire to win. Tempting as it was to imagine that all Recovery had to do was turn up, the truth was that expectations were low. I approached the evening with an open mind, wishing Recovery luck but wondering if I might discover another great band.

I’m not going to micro review each set. Suffice to say that every band sounded great, even if not all were to my taste, and I did have my own personal order at the end of the night which may or may not have concurred with the final result.

A word on the venue. Rehab originally opened as a live music venue before realising that there was more money to be made as a nightclub (and the only nightclub in Harrogate worth going in I should add). The acoustics are superb (better than anywhere else in town) and I was left with the impression that an opportunity had been missed. Maybe it’s not too late; Rehab do host the odd concert (they accomodated Hope & Social once at short notice on a Saturday) and are often not busy during the week. Also a Saturday show in the upstairs room would lead nicely into the rock night that follows. Maybe somebody with influence could speak to the management but I digress …

Every member of the audience had a wristband so they could vote for a winner. There may have been some judges hidden upstairs – the process wasn’t very transparent. However the votes were counted, they were (presumably) verified and the winners were …

… Recovery (by a large margin apparently). So given that they only had eight obvious votes (the band, the Pips lads and me) and the other bands must have had about the same I can only assume they won over every neutral voter there – and there weren’t that many.

So Recovery victorious. With hindsight, of course, it seems obvious. The semi final will be interesting.

The prize incidentally, apart from progressing to the semis (Dimension, as runners up, also went through) was a crate of Budweiser from behind the bar – a rather large crate. Given that Mike Holmes and Matt J split early I’d like to thank Jonny and Matt for sharing the prize with me. That said it’s been a long time since I got so drunk I ended up seeing double – much as I love you guys one of you is quite enough. On that note …

GIG REVIEW – Born Blonde/ The Four 45s/ Rupert Stroud Leeds Cockpit 1/2/2013

Apologies to my followers (in the unlikely event I have any) for going a whole January without a post. I did start drafting something about Ed Sheeran and Jake Bugg but never saw it through). Anyway I’ve had a fantastic January digging (as they say) new music. 2013 looks set to be a great year and hopefully its first gig will set the tone. Incidentally both 1993 and 2003 were both important years for me with a change in perspective and plenty of events that would shape the decade ahead. Maybe history will repeat itself (I may return to this later).

My evening* began with the almost obligatory lad with a guitar, in this case Rupert Stroud. I must admit my heart sinks when a guitar troubador steps on stage – it’s hard for him to win over an audience that isn’t really listening or bring something new to the mix …

However Rupert Stroud had a percussionist with him and the beat made all the difference. It was standard stuff in a way – a mixture of covers and own songs. The latter definitely merit remembering the name; Rupert Stroud has individuality and his own style. Mention must be made of the most surprising cover of the night – Smells Like Teen Spirit. Its not an obvious choice to do acoustically (few would argue that the best bit – 18 seconds in – is lost in translation) but after Rupert Stroud finished his version I felt that Kurt Cobain might have missed a trick on that legendary live album.

Which takes us on to The Four 45s. What can I say about this band that I haven’t said already? Actually, quite a bit.

The Four 45s were the nominal support act but given how many people made the trek from Harrogate and how quickly the room emptied after their set suggests that they were pretty much co-headliners. Obviously their set had to be a lot shorter and – interestingly – two of their regular highlights missed the cut (DidYou Hear The Wind Blow and Eton Mess). The show opened with Down The River; a bold choice as a song with a lengthy outtro followed by a reprise isn’t the obvious way to hit a new audience but I think they succeeded (helped by the fact that Joe Flanagan is a master of carrying an audience). Other highlights were Encore Tricolore (of course), Paradigm Apocalypse, a song that’s passed me by on previous listens and Johnny Says. The latter is a song that I like more and more with every listen. What a powerful, complex song this is – I can honestly say I am thrilled to be able to say I once sold petrol with the guy who wrote it (and I hope Nick will forgive me for thinking this was a Flanagan composition until recently).

I can see I’m going to spend this year labouring comparisons between IV Play and The Four 45s. The two bands have relatively little in common except perhaps a distinct British pop influence (a lot of young bands these days take their influences from grunge and metal – both primarily US genres) but I’ve had the privilege of catching both in their early days and watching them develop. Both bands took flight from an idea and a collective of personalities – the Four 45s sound continues to develop in depth and texture with every gig, just like IV Play did a decade before.

And Born Blonde – well what an amazing year this is turning into for new bands. I’ll give a link to a recent Guardian article for back story http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/22/new-band-born-blonde

Essentially I’d love to see this band again (preferably when I don’t have to dodge the last two numbers to get the early train). Sonically their sound was very different to The Four 45s; heavily synth driven but rooted in rock and roll. The obvious comparison point would be Stone Roses (a band I’ve never quite subscribed to the way some people do) but this isn’t a clone band – they have their own vibe and personality. Their music (and there is an album available) would probably repay a listen through headphones as the overall soundscapes were haunting and complex. Current single and opening number Solar would be climbing the charts now if there was any justice (but – for now – there isn’t) but if this country can still produce bands like this and afford to tuck them away in the Cockpit’s upstairs room then there is hope.

* There was another performer by the name of Mark Wynn but I arrived too late for his set.