Wednesday 19 February 2020

Goan Dogs - Boileroom, Guildford - February 15th, 2020

Another case of trying something new and liking it!

After enjoying Skinny Lister and finding myself deep in the January blues, I decided to see who was playing locally soon.

I scanned the upcoming gigs at Aldershot's West End Centre, but nothing took my fancy, so I started looking at the calendar for the Boileroom in Guildford.

I checked out some of the acts on Youtube and soon discovered that the Goan Dogs seemed quite interesting.

I bought a ticket for a bargain tenner and waited.

Storm Dennis ('The least threatening name for a storm' as Wyse, the support act, described it - I guess she'd never heard of 'The Menace'!) arrived, promising high wind and heavy rain, but Guildford was in a lull from about 7 to Midnight, so I figured it wouldn't be too much of a problem, but as I drove to Guildford it was noticeable how few cars there were on the roads and Guildford town centre was remarkably quiet too.

I found on-street parking and arrived in time for the support act, Wyse.

I was a bit surprised to see there was no wire mesh separating the audience from the, very low, stage, because it had been there when I'd seen Ben Watt and The Hoosiers there, but both times, the venue had been packed and someone suggested it may be put up when busy to stop the audience falling into the performers. There wasn't much chance of that this evening.

Sadly, when Wyse (a young woman, back by Matt - I think - on his guitar) started there were just 15 of us in the venue!

I won't pretend Wyse filled me with enthusiasm, but the two of them were competent enough and warmly received by the small (but growing, slightly) audience, she just wasn't my cuppa, but I can imagine others might enjoy her style (I've read some comments comparing it to Bjork) and she certainly wasn't untalented, so look her up.

A pause, of course, followed while Wyse's kit was removed and then the Goan Dogs themselves arrived and carried out what sounded like a final soundcheck for a few minutes, before wandering off again.

About 9:15 they came back and the lights fell. By now the audience had risen to around 50 people, which was a real shame for the band, performing, they said, live for the first time in two years.

I'd listened to a few of their tracks on Youtube, so knew the first song 'Passing Through' and they sounded pretty good (I did ask the sound man to lift the vocal a little as it was hard to hear and, to his credit, he did and it was better after that), much as you would hope from a live performance of a song you'd only heard recorded before.

The Bristol based band describe themselves as playing 'Warped Guitar Pop' which is fair enough as far as it goes. They're a guitar band and their sound is fairly 'pop-y', but what the 'warped' adds to that is hard to define and I struggled to think of who they reminded me, if anyone, and to be honest, nearly a week later I'm no nearer doing so.

At moments, I detected hints of the early Police in their vaguely reggaeish sound, but I'm quite sure most would struggle to hear it.

Whatever they do, though, they do very well and their distinctive sound worked well, mixing that with witty lyrics on songs like "The Grid", "Flying Business Class" and "Drifting Apart".

They sounded good live with no signs of rustiness in their performance and the audience seemed to really enjoy the gig, I certainly did.

It was, though, a fairly short set at around 75 minutes with no encore - After saying how much I'd enjoyed them, I asked one of the band if they were doing any more songs as he stepped out of the stage area, but he said they didn't have a huge amount of material, not having performed for a while.

Overall, though it was a great little gig, if the tiny audience did keep the atmosphere a little subdued and I hope it was mostly the threat of poor weather that kept people at home rather than hearing them as they really deserve a bigger audience and some proper success.

I hope too, that it won't dissuade them coming back to the Boileroom as I'd go and see them there again.

When you think of some of the performers who achieve chart success, it seems incredible that a bunch of talented lads like Goan Dogs aren't a household name.

If you get the chance go and see them, they are a great band with a distinctive sound and deserve more attention.

Monday 20 January 2020

The Vox Beatles - St John's Church, Farncombe - January 18th, 2020

What can you say about The Beatles?

Undoubtedly one of the most loved and influential bands of the 20th century, but possibly one whose songs are so ingrained in popular culture that they're taken for granted or even rather disparaged by some in more recent generations.

The one thing you can say without any fear of dispute is that you'll never get to see them perform live! They, famously, gave up touring very early in their career (tired of no-one being able to hear them above the screaming of 10,000 girls and a few boys, no doubt) and, aside from the famous rooftop event at the very end of their career, they never wavered in that.

So that explains, to a great extent, why I was back at St John's Church in Farncombe on a freezing night in January.

Part of it was simply that I fancied a night out, the £16 entry fee seemed very reasonable and the reviews of The Vox Beatles (and some YouTube videos) suggested they were a decent Beatles tribute band.

So, having quite enjoyed the Illegal Eagles a couple of years earlier, despite my doubts about tribute bands, I bought a ticket way back in April 2019 (I think I may even have been the very first person to do so!).

It was a frosty night even as I left home to drive the 15 miles or so to Farncombe village.

Once inside the Church Hall (which doubles as a bar for music events), I was surprised to see a long queue of people snaking from the door to the Church, obviously keen to get a good seat.

I could hear the band warming up at one point and they sounded pretty decent through the door and about 7:35 the door was opened and in we went.

One thing I had forgotten about St John's Church was that the pews are rock hard, once again you could spot the regulars, as they'd bought cushions with them! It was also fairly chilly, but not quite so much that you needed to keep your coat on, which was a relief.

Just before 8, the band appeared, dressed in the 'Cavern Style' leather jackets and black roll-neck sweaters.

From the off it was apparent that, unlike the Illegal Eagles, The Vox Beatles were going to play the characters (John, Paul, George and Ringo) of the band, rather than stick strictly to the music.

The leader 'John' (actually Mike, I seem to recall), quipped Lennon-like throughout, while 'Paul' pulled funny faces (as is still his want) from time to time. 'George' was fairly low key, only 'Ringo', poorly illuminated and stuck behind his drums at the back, seemed unwilling or unable to play to character, although he did perform a few of 'Ringo's songs.

Initially, personally, I found this a little irritating, but after a while I accepted that it was part of the performance and it seemed less jarring as the evening wore on. Now and then, too, they'd drop out of character, which was funny and made it clear they weren't taking it all too seriously.

What helped, of course, was that when playing they were really good.

Both instrumentally and vocally, they produced a sound that was close enough to the original songs to be both enjoyable and memory-evoking.

Although I wasn't born until 1962, when The Beatles started to enjoy mass success, I'd been a big fan in the mid-1970s, before Punk and New Wave came along and stole my attention.

I'd never lost my liking for The Beatles, though, and still have a pretty big collection of their albums (on CD and Vinyl) which still get an airing from time to time, so I was familiar with all the songs they played and, while I wouldn't say they all sounded exactly like the recordings, they certainly sounded close enough for you to think this might have been how they'd have sounded live.

After a few of the rockier early period songs ("Hard Day's Night", "Help", "She Loves You","I Saw Her Standing There"and "I Want To Hold Your Hand", amongst others - I can't find a full setlist), they left for a few minutes and returned in Shea Stadium style outfits to perform later period songs, such as "Day Tripper", "Ticket To Ride" and "The Night Before".

After about an hour, there was a 30 minute interval, while the (mostly pretty old - Older than me, even! - but there were some younger people and not all appeared to be carers!) audience pottered off for a beer, wine, tea or coffee and a much-needed comfort break (and by that I mean a chance to alleviate the buttocks from the solid pew seats!)

When we returned, the band appeared in "Sgt Pepper's" style costumes and started the second part with the opening two tracks from that album (The title track and "With a Little Help from My Friends"), later they came back to the album to perform "When I'm 64".

I'm a little hazy on the exact order, as they didn't play in strict chronological order, but we also had "Taxman", "All You Need is Love" and "Hello, Goodbye" around this point.

The guy performing as 'George' was excellent - They performed "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something" (as well as "Taxman") and his guitar work sounded impressive.

Around this point, the band split up, 'George' doing "Something" while the others changed and then he nipped off to return with a remarkably quickly grown (And very fake looking!) beard, to return in Apple Roof Top era outfits.

'Paul' gave us "Blackbird" and then, when the band were all back we got a selection of later songs, including "Get Back" (I couldn't help hearing The Rutles' "Get Up and Go" - RIP Neil Innes), the rather unexpected, but welcome "Ballad of John and Yoko" and the very unexpected, but a personal favourite of mine, "One after 909".

There was no encore, but they just kept asking if we wanted 'One more song'? And of course, the answer was yes. We got "Twist and Shout" and "Hey Jude" and in the end, it was only the 11PM curfew that stopped the fun.

If you like the Beatles music and live performance, I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't enjoy an evening with The Vox Beatles.

I certainly did!