A Saturday night with current restrictions, means another online streaming event for me, this time one hosted by Planet Rock at Birminghams Asylum Venue. I suppose some of us could get used to sitting in front of our screens, all nice and cosy with a few beers, without the need to travel and having a decent view of the stage. Which means online gigs could stay in vogue, even after the threat of Covid 19 has passed. Are we witnessing the future of how we will see bands perform from now on, or will things return to normal in a few months? We can only wait and see how it all pans out. Mind you, most of us can remember when programmes aired on TV like The Old Grey Whistle Test, Headbangers Ball and even TOTP, having a similar format they were on our weekly watch list and introduced us to many of our favourite bands, who we would go on to see live. I’ve taken a moment to pause and reflect on that gaping hole in music broadcasting, but I will leave the debate for another day.
Presented by the cool, confident and well kitted out Paul Anthony, the show started at around 6.45pm, it was a live broadcast and tickets were £15 in advance, rising to £20 on the day, which is a fair price to pay for the three bands on tonight. More importantly the show can’t be downloaded or watched again, so glued to my chair I tuned in from the start. The first 15 minutes were taken up with Paul interviewing Baz Mills, the Massive Wagons frontman who was still buzzing from the bands triumph at getting to number 9 in the UK’s main album charts, they were actually doing a charity run when they learnt the news. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride since February when the guys recorded the first video for the 5th album, ‘House Of Noise’, as straight after that lockdown meant things had to take a different path. Now after 11 years together, it seems all the hard work has finally paid off. We leave the interview at the bar, to watch the first of the 3 bands tonight, each having an hour long set.
’Stay All Night’ from the ‘All In Time’ LP of 2016 is first up from the quartet. This album was actually re-issued last year due to fan pressure! From their formation back in 2013, the band have gained a huge amount of popularity and have a massive fanbase with ‘The Broken Army’. The second album ‘Ain’t Always Easy’ was released 2 years after the debut and two songs from that are played next, ‘Doesn’t Matter’ and ‘Heartbeat Away’ and the band begin to get into a rhythm. Full of hard fist riffs and drifting grooves, they don’t let up for a second. As frontman Rich Moss, jokes about almost forgetting what a stage looked like, he also announces the headline ‘Revelation’ tour for next year and then they perform a new number called ’Stronger’ which is a slower one, it lives up to its title, powerful with robust chords. Well executed, it’s bound to feature on the setlist’s in the future. After the soaring ‘Better’ and ‘Let Me Go’ with its gritty guitar riffing and moodiness, it’s time for ‘Let Me See It All’ which Rich said of later was the weirdest to play in an empty room, as the ladies start dancing during it. Another new track ‘This Revival’ gets its first play, having deep and soul binding lyrics with more pounding in-between, it’s another highlight of the set. With no frills, just playing their hearts out, they continue with some regulars, ‘Worth Fighting For’, ‘I Believe’ and ‘The Only Thing I Need’ then the acoustic version of ‘Wait For You’ where the band join in to provide a flourish at the end. They finish with the heavier ‘Not Your Enemy’ and all guns blazing. I have to say it was a faultless performance. Look out for details of the tour and a third album, which is currently in progress. Rich is interviewed afterwards by Paul, he chats away giving us an update on the Walsall based band, the challenges they have faced and the determination to fill larger venues.
All the way from Bridgend, one of the bands of the moment are Those Damn Crows. The level of expectation is high tonight, even from an audience behind a camera lens, but any tension is dismissed after the first few bars of ‘Who Did It’. Apart from ‘Behind These Walls’ from the 2018 ‘Murder And The Motive’, the next 5 tracks are also off the latest album ‘Point Of No Return’, which reached number 14 in the UK Album charts back in February. Lead man Shane Greenhall has the most passionate of voices and his interaction with the camera, as if he is pointing you out down on the barrier, gave it as much a live feel as possible, he even thanked us for coming tonight. If you have never seen them live, I can only describe TDC as alive as an electric thunderbolt, with an outpouring of heartfelt energy and a level of enthusiasm that is hard to beat among their contemporaries. We get a brilliant acoustic take on ‘Say It’ and a bit of a restful period with Shane on keyboards for ’Never Win’. All is going to plan until the system fails for ‘Blink Of An Eye’ and we have to move on. (After watching the bands online show, ‘Crow Cast’ last night, 28th July, it seems the band were unaware of the hitch at the time and would have played it again at the end, however it seems the song and video was still recorded, so Planet Rock may air the track by way of an apology), ‘Sin On Skin’ that contains that wave crashing melody is before ‘Don’t Give A Damn’ which would normally see the audience singing along, I bet there are a few hundred doing that from their sofas instead. The sliding grooves from guitarists David Winchurch and Ian ‘Shiner’ Thomas combined with Ronnie Huxford’s rampant drumming make this early number still as fresh as the day it was penned. The wild and raucous ‘Rock N Roll Ain’t Dead’ was to be the last one, but ‘Go Get It’ is added due to the earlier problem and what a bonus for us all. With Lloyd Wood on bass and backing vocals it brought the set to an end. Due to restrictions Shane wasn’t able to run around and dive off the bar as planned, the language had to be toned down as well, I mean the swearing not the Welsh! But this didn’t hamper the performance and interaction too much, it was so enjoyable to see the guys sweating it out on stage, it was the next best thing to actually being at a gig.
Paul Anthony caught up with Shane afterwards for a lengthy interview. We heard there are a few new songs finished for the next album already and how everyone in the band is involved with writing, their different influences are a main factor in creating songs that have such varying style. Asked what was next on the agenda, Shane reminded us of the shows due in November, Monsterfest in Inverness on the 12th and the show with Thunder in Cardiff on the 19th, lets hope these are still able to go ahead.
Time for the men from Lancaster, who are still reeling from reaching the top ten in the UK album charts and completing the charity run of course! Formed back in 2009, playing with slightly tongue in cheek, off the wall humour and stating their views of the world, by saying it as it is, the Wagons fill a void of untold truths and are not afraid to overstep the mark on occasion. ‘Pressure’ from the new hit album ‘House Of Noise’ see them get started and Baz Mills is jumping around straight away. Apart from the second song ‘Nails’ which is from ‘Welcome To The World’, the setlist is compiled of the latest 2 albums, the excellent ‘Full Nelson’ from 2018 being the other. I adhered to MW straight way, as they are so different from anything else you will have heard. Once in full swing, ‘Professional Creep’, ‘Billy Balloonhead’, ’Glorious’, ‘Hero’ and the stab at social media ‘friendship’, ‘China Plates’ are blasted out in rapid succession. Baz is down to his red and white stripe t-shirt and hasn’t stopped leaping around since the start, when he does stand still, its only to furiously head-bang. After ‘Last On The List’ and one of my favourites ’Tokyo’ where Baz confronts us via the camera, we hear ‘Bangin In Your Stereo’ which is a bit of a jab at the content on some radio shows. A song ‘that is very personal and close to my heart’ is how Baz introduces ‘The Curry Song’ the rock/rap number that gets loaded with guitar riffs from Adam Thistlewaite and Steve Holl. One of their best ‘Back To The Stack’ is a fiery tribute to the late Rick Parfitt of Status Quo and it reaches 100% on the homage scale. After a round of thanks, they bow out with ‘In It Together’ another that breaks a few moulds. You would be under the illusion that Massive Wagons have had it easy and risen to this level overnight, but since their inception, the band have faced ups and many downs, it’s been a long slog and a lot of hard graft from the floor upwards and 11 years, to get where they are today. If the ‘Call Of The Wild’ festival is still on in September the boys will be seen next when headlining on the Sunday night. Otherwise there is a tour planned for next March.
There isn’t much left to say as Paul Anthony bids us farewell, just thanks all round and a nod to buy the T-shirt to help support the project. Hopefully this is just the first of a few shows with Planet Rock in this format, as apart from the few minutes during TDC playing ‘Blink of An Eye’, when all was lost, the night was a successful one. The Asylum may have been empty and we were only viewing from afar, but the bands managed to create a kind of virtual atmosphere that penetrated our screens. Big thanks to all involved at Planet Rock for ‘Rocks The Asylum’, to Roy Davis (Shy) and Jaci Harrod Davis who run the Asylum Venue, Paul Anthony for being the perfect host and of course to the 3 bands for being absolutely brilliant.