Sunday, July 15, 2018

Review: The Bloodshake Chorus at Cromer Social Club

The Bloodshake Chorus
Mann Slaughter, vocals, The Bloodshake Chorus
My first, happy memories of rock concerts are from a social club, Syston Working Mens' Club in Leicestershire, England, to be precise. A dark room with a bar in the corner, a badly-lit stage at one end, lots of seats around small, wonky tables that spilled fizzy drinks and booze onto the carpet. Young mothers dressed up for a night out; men with glasses of beer, happy to be at the end of a working week; the older, purple-rinse crowd waiting for the bingo and the raffle, and we kids dancing in front of the stage. The band played 50's and 60's covers, and if they didn't already include it, by the end of the night there was always a group of young women shouting for the Shadows' Apache. So last night's show at Cromer Social Club was a bit like a time-warp and going home, right down to the kids dancing. Almost.

Until, that is, it comes to the band.

The Bloodshake Chorus
The Bloodshake Chorus
The Bloodshake Chorus do, indeed, play 50's and 60's covers, with the occasional 70's hit thrown in... but not in any way that you've heard before. They look nothing-at-all like a throwback to mid-century modern: they're a team of blood-drenched zombies with Ivan-Moodyesque handprints, and they turn these wonderful, classic songs into hard-rock-metal masterpieces. Vocalist Mann Slaughter's voice is huge. It's like Hallow'een at an Elvis convention, without the Elvis but with every other musician from his era. I loved it.

The Bloodshake Chorus
Frank Ensteinway, keys, The Bloodshake Chorus
The Bloodshake Chorus have been on stages much bigger than this, supporting and with artists including Madness, Toyah, Skunk Anansie, The Slaves and many more. I could easily see them entertaining a huge crowd at big rock-and-metal festivals... seriously good!

The Bloodshake Chorus
The Bloodshake Chorus, Cromer Social Club
I'm not sure that the regular patrons of the Social Club were quite ready for this, but by the end of the evening, the entire room was singing along. And not one person called for the Shadows.

The Bloodshake Chorus
The Bloodshake Chorus at Cromer Social Club
(Most surreal part of the evening? An intermission... for a raffle. Yes, a raffle. Seems that all shows in Cromer, whether for a pier show, a tribute band, or a group of hard-rock-metal-zombies-playing-exquisite-unique-covers has to have an intermission. Is that just a Cromer thing, or have I missed something during my many years overseas??? No bingo though... that's on Thursday!)

The Bloodshake Chorus

The Kinks. Shirley Bassey. The Animals. The Zombies. Dolly Parton. Tom Jones and many more... all given the Bloodshake Chorus treatment. Here's an example:

A few more photos (grainy, very 60's because... zero light), here, in the photo gallery from last night: 

Catch The Bloodshake Chorus if you possibly can... well worth a trip! Find dates all over East Anglia, here on their Facebook. They'll be back in Cromer for the Carnival and to perform at The Welly in August... next weekend at the Brickmaker's in Norwich, which looks a bit more like a regular concert venue. (See, I'm starting to find the local music scene.)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

GoGo Hares: beautiful hares, all around the Norwich city centre and the county of Norfolk, England

GoGo Hares in Norwich
GoGo Hare, Norwich
I'm loving the GoGo Hares!

In Norwich yesterday for the anti-Trump protest outside City Hall, I was able to find a few of the fifty city hares around the town centre, and see a few of the 164 leverets, too (the little guys I found were mostly in shop windows). In addition to the fifty city hares, there are another eighteen GoGo Hares around the county of Norfolk, including a beautiful chrome, stargazing hare here in Cromer.

GoGo Hares in Norwich
GoGo Hare, Norwich
Celebrating 50 years of the Norfolk children's charity, Break, and in partnership with Wild In Art, the hares are all unique: colourful, symbolic, cheerful and inspiring. Each one has a story to tell.

GoGo Hares in Norwich
GoGo Hare, Norwich
Find out all about the GoGo Hares here, on their website--there's a trail map to download so that you can find them all, and an app too.

GoGo Hares in Norwich
GoGo Hare, Norwich
The hares are here until September 8th. See if you can find them all! They are all numbered, and you can read all about the individual artists here. And if you want a GoGo Hare to call your own, all of the city hares, and a few of the county hares, will be auctioned in October! Information here! The proceeds will go to support Break in their work with children.

More photos of the hares here (and I will add more as I find them). They are not numbered and I have not included their locations: you have to go track them down yourselves!

GoGo Hares in Norwich
GoGo Hare, Norwich

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Out-of-sorts and all behind-hand... catching-up in the UK, and bad awakenings

English lavender
Lavender, to help me sleep tonight
I woke up rudely this morning, launched from a deep-and-dream-filled sleep to bolt-upright-and-wide-awake without a fraction of a moment between; no eye-rubbing, yawning, stretching, just a gut-wrenching explosion of sound as some idiot decided to roar and rev his or her clanking, rattling and damaged motorbike through the centre of this calm-and-silent 5 a.m. Sunday seaside town. I never feel anger towards bikers--I have my own fair share of bionics and metalwork and have tasted hot tarmac far too closely for that. But forgive me: the word that has been going through my head every few minutes since that moment is "clothesline". So not only did you wake me up, you w*nker, you have had me thinking appalling thoughts all day, grumpy, out-of-sorts, muttering at people who don't wash their hands after using a public loo... May you read this and sober up before you get on your bike again.

It's been a busy, exciting, hard-working and intriguing week, much of which will become evident later in the year (my lips are sealed until then)... part of which has me once again hankering and yearning for a garden to care for (which was not the intended outcome), and which sent me to Heacham to the beautiful Norfolk Lavender farm on Friday (may have made the yearning worse, not better); and wandering around the town listlessly today rather than doing anything constructive, like sorting out a list of festivals and concerts to go to and to review. I have been here in this lovely part of the world for six months now, and I still feel so way-behind-hand in catching-up-with and learning-about all the wonderful UK festivals and events. It's not that there is a shortage, far from it: there is so much going on, in so many different places, and with so many different musical and artistic styles, I hardly know where to begin, and then allow another long walk on the beach to distract, because each day and each hour is new and different by the sea.

For example, this is what is displayed in a local shop window:

All local to this pretty town... which is under an hour from the county town, with county town events and big-name concerts... and a couple more hours from London, where I went just a few weeks back for a show and where I will be heading much more frequently as the year edges on.

But this summer, I am playing catch-up, chasing my own tail; it feels like this year is going to be one of experiments and of finding the way in the music environment that is the UK. It's a learning experience...

(And of other events... I wanted to see the horses training at Holkham beach, but found out they were there, two days too late. That is in the diary for next year. Maybe this is how the year will play out, filling in the dates for the next?)

Don't you dare wake me up tomorrow. Don't you dare.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Get some variety: Cromer Pier Show, all summer long!

Cromer Pier Show 2018

If you grew up with Morecambe and Wise' shows with their selection of diverse guests, or if today you watch TV talent shows such as Britain's Got Talent or America's Got Talent, then you already know what a variety show is. That's what the Cromer Pier show is: a huge variety of acts, styles and material, presented by a group of very talented people, with a comedian keeping everything flowing--making for a very entertaining show indeed. If you have never yet experienced a variety show, it's about time you did... here's your opportunity, in the beautiful seaside town of Cromer, Norfolk!

Cromer Pier Show 2018
Dancers from Marlen's School of Dance, with Emily Yarrow
Over two hours of music, dance and laughter. There is a team of young dancers from Marlene's School of Dance, based in Cromer, and the music ranges from pop to Broadway to musicals such as the King and I and the Greatest Showman, right through to opera... the dance from high kicks to modern ballet. There are illusions and quick changes and naughty jokes and a man called G who has a million voices in his head (in a good way)... from Ken Dodd to Billy Connelly, all of whom have an uncanny knack of subtly changing their lyrics.

Cromer Pier Show 2018
G, Cromer Pier Show 2018
The adult performers include vocalists Emily Yarrow (read an interview with her here), who returns to the Cromer Pier show for a sixth season, and Harvey James, also returning to Cromer--he performed at the pier show in 2006 and 2007.  Steve Terry is the compere-comedian (if you bump into someone who sounds like Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, it might be Mr Terry). The illusionists and quick-change artists are Zooka and Suzie Q

Cromer Pier Show 2018
Dancers, Cromer Pier Show 2018
I hadn't been to a live variety show, or to see stand-up comics perform, in years. I really enjoyed Cromer Pier show... I was reminded how much I always enjoyed The King and I, I laughed out loud at the jokes throughout the show, again inspired me to photograph more dance... and I especially loved how G morphed into all of his characters while still being totally himself (just don't report him to the fashion police).

Cromer Pier Show 2018
Zooka and Suzie Q
The show is a fast-moving two-or-more hours of flowing entertainment. It's fun. It's for all ages--bring the kids and introduce them to musical styles that they'll never hear on Radio One. You never know, it might be their introduction to a lifetime of musical exploration. Make Cromer Pier Show part of your family's summer holiday tradition.

The Cromer Pier show continues and upholds a great tradition in British theatre and entertainment. The Pavilion Theatre is the perfect setting: velvety seats, a gallery, gorgeous set design. The show is billed as the only remaining end-of-pier variety show in the world. I didn't see Simon Cowell in the audience--there's no judgement, just a whole load of good, happy, talented and enjoyable entertainment.

Cromer Pier Show 2018
Emily Yarrow and Harvey James
More information about the Cromer Pier show can be found here--it has been running each summer for over forty years! The show season runs from now throughout the summer: there are two different shows, and the final two weeks will see acts from both versions as the Ultimate Cromer Pier Show. Book tickets here for Show One, here for Show Two, and here for the Ultimate (11-22 September 2018).

Cromer Pier Show 2018
Steve Terry, Cromer Pier Show, 2018
For more photos, see the Cromer Pier Show 2018 gallery here!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Album review: Fantastic Negrito, Please Don't Be Dead

Fantastic Negrito (Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz) has just released Please Don't Be Dead, and it's a beautiful collection of gritty, warm, blues-and-soul-and-street-inspired California music.

California, like the night streets of the East Bay cities and of waiting for Greyhound buses in dusty, suspicious, flourescent-lit, asleep-on-the-floor bus stations, not the California of the Golden Gate or Hollywood. California, like a seven-hour central valley road-trip: see-saw oil pumps to your right, migrant workers bent in drought-thirsty fields to your left, and the empty railroad tracks running parallel to the miraged road: when the daily train passes, it takes forty minutes and no wonder people dodge the gates to cross before the train. California, like desert-hot thirst and cracked, dry reservoirs and a glassful of sweating ice in a dark, midnight bar, not the California of dreams and beautiful-people-on-Venice Beach.

Fantastic Negrito's Oakland upbringing and life colour his music, and it's wonderfully atmospheric.

I first heard Fantastic Negrito through the theme song to Hand of God, a TV series in the USA starring Ron Perlman, when I had to immediately grab Shazam to find out who was singing. While I'm sure much more of his music will find its way to TV and movies (I see Samuel L Jackson when I listen to Bad Guy Necessary), this album deserves to be part of your collection. It's good. It's very, very good.

Fantastic Negrito is currently on tour around the USA and with several upcoming dates in Europe, including Winchester in the UK (at Boomtown Fair).

Find Please Don't Be Dead and more of Fantastic Negrito's music here on his website--or through your usual outlet. Take a listen through his YouTube channel, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Album review: Bad Wolves, Disobey

A few days ago, Bad Wolves -- the same band that brought us the stunning cover of The Cranberries' Zombie earlier this year -- they were supposed to release their debut album. While they did, indeed, release the album titled Disobey, I think they forgot that it was supposed to be their debut.

Instead, they came right out and released the collection of songs that was probably intended to be a third or fourth album: you know, that album where the musicians know each other inside-out: where they each weave their magic in, out and around each other, building the pattern and fabric of sound; the one where the songs are all different, and each and every one is good; that album that says, we're here to stay. That's the album that they released with Disobey.

Yesterday, they also released the official music video for "Remember When", tackling family dynamics, addiction, alcoholism and mental heath... here it is:

Yes, they are all seasoned and experienced musicians: vocalist Tommy Vext (Divine Heresy, Snot), guitarists Doc Coyle (God Forbid) and Chris Cain (Bury Your Dead, For The Fallen Dreams), drummer John Boecklin, and bassist Kyle Konkiel (In This Moment, Vimic) together build a sound that's going to make a lot of people sit up and listen.

You can't classify Disobey. It's heavy, very heavy-and-angry-enough for metal fans. Intricate, complex and daring-enough for prog and progressive-metal listeners. Moments of beautiful melody that makes your hair stand on end; lyrics that make you think. The title track jumps right in and there's nothing held back.

And that bass. Did I mention the bass? I wish I could play bass like that...

Bad Wolves have recently been touring with Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown, both of whom also recently released new albums. Bad Wolves have a whole load of dates lined up around the USA--find tour details here-- (some supporting Five Finger Death Punch, some with From Ashes To New), and then will be at both Louder Than Life and Aftershock festivals at the end of the summer. No UK or European dates yet... I bet it won't be long!

Find Disobey here on the band's website or at your usual music outlet... it won't disappoint.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: Jonathan Davis at London's Islington O2

Cherubs, St Paul's Cathedral, London
The past three times that I have seen Jonathan Davis perform, it's been as the frontman for Korn; before audiences of tens or twenties of thousands of people in California and in Chicago, out in the open air, and from the perspective of a photographer in the pit between the stage and the barrier, the performers and the enormous crowd of  fans. Crowdsurfers, muscular security teams, stunning light shows, intense heat, and that beautiful, entrancing Giger mic stand.

Last night, it couldn't have been more different.

O2 Acadamy Islington is inside a shopping center, in one of London's ancient corners: Angel, Islington. Just across the road from a tube (underground) station; close to random budget hotels, and with a street full of cosy, boutique restaurants, mobile phone shops, traditional English pubs, the usual high-street brandnames, and places that sell breakfast, but don't open until 11 a.m. The venue is like an empty, concrete cube, with a small stage, a couple of bars, and an upstairs gallery that runs around two sides of the stage. It reminded me of the drama studio at my high school, and probably held about the same number of people: capacity for the O2, Islington, is 800, and from my spot on the barrier at stage left, it looked like we sold it out. (If you know Sacramento's Ace of Spades, O2 Islington is about half the size.) I didn't go and count, because heck, I was not moving from that spot on the barrier. Sometimes you just have to let the inner fan girl or boy run wild.

On tour with band of creative and talented musicians, and including double bass and violin, Jonathan Davis brings his first solo studio album to life on the stage. Playing almost all of Black Labrynth (here's the earlier review), with a few earlier songs in the mix: Slept So Long, and Love On The Rocks, a wonderful, gritty Neil Diamond cover... with a twist.

Wonderful show. Amazing privilege, to see such a huge performance in such an intimate setting. Like inviting them to play in your own front room with all the neighbours invited. You could tell: the band enjoyed it as much as the crowd.

Two weeks after the album was released, and it seemed like everyone there already knew all the words. That's a pretty darn good endorsement. I think we know why.

Jonathan Davis played this evening at Download Festival, Donington Park, Derbyshire--back to festival-huge crowds--and will follow that with dates and festivals in Europe: see here for more info. And then later in the year, Columbus OH, and then Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, California. Catch him if you can!

I still love this shot. Any excuse to share it again.

Jonathan Davis, vocals, Korn, Aftershock 2013
Jonathan Davis performing with Korn, Aftershock, Sacramento

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Louder Than Life festival lineup announced.... and it's so very, very good!

Louder Than Life is a three-day festival in Louisville, Kentucky... and the lineup has just been announced. That's a wow...  Tickets go on sale this coming Friday, June 8th!

All info can be found here, on the festival website: (Hint: you need the festival in the URL otherwise you'll end up somewhere rather weird.) Want to make a vacation? The previous weekend sees another festival at the same location, Bourbon and Beyond (lineup can be found here). In between? Check out the Muhammed Ali museum, I went last year and it's a winner.

One to look out for: The Magpie Salute: single, album and festival dates

Just announced: The Magpie Salute's first studio album, High Water I, will be available--worldwide--on August 10th. Their style, an intriguing mix of hard, southern, gritty and bluesy rock and beautiful melodies... take a listen to the first single from the album:

The Magpie Salute will be on tour throughout the USA and Canada this summer, including festival dates in Thunder Bay, Ontario at Thunder Bay Blues Festival, Fredericton, New Brunswick's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, and Louisville Kentucky's Bourbon and Beyond (which is right before Louder Than Life... more on that later.)

For more info on The Magpie Salute, check their website and Facebook.

And such a cool name for a band... there's an explanation in this interview.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Album review: Jonathan Davis, Black Labrynth... brilliant!

Jonathan Davis, vocals, Korn
Jonathan Davis, Aftershock Festival
Fast becoming my favourite album of 2018 so far, Jonathan Davis' first solo studio album, Black Labrynth, was released on May 25th through Sumerian Records.

First listening: many of the songs are bouncy, even joyful (almost): get-up-and-dance rhythms, tablas and sitar and duduk and Indian melodies part of a couple of tracks (Final Days and Gender), a couple of ballads, but... cheerful. Then focus on the lyrics, and it becomes a manic dance in the arms of the scary clown from under the bed, whirling across the splintered floor of a decaying church. There is (lost) religion, there are secrets, there are worrisome happenings, but somehow there is no despair.

This dichotomy of first impression/what's happening in the depths is portrayed beautifully in the first song, on the album, Underneath My Skin. It's so... bouncy and yet:

Locked in my head while my sins are on display
Every time that I atone, they come back attacking me.

The song that sounds like a ballad, The Secret:

And your eyes flicker
You must be dreaming evil dreams
Are you eating someone's heart?
Is it what it seems?
Your smile would make them scream
But I know your sadness

Emotional takeaway: we can put a lovely, happy face over our own darkness. It's how we get through. It's called survival. It's called life. And this album hits it right on the head.


Black Labrynth closes with the first single taken from the Korn frontman's album, "What It Is"; released in January, and part of the soundtrack to the movie, American Satan, it's a powerful, haunting and memorable track:

Mr Davis is on tour in Europe, including the major festivals and UK dates, plus Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, California in October--check out ticket availability and dates here on his website.

Find all our photos of Jonathan Davis with Korn here, in the photo galleries: 

Monday, May 21, 2018

New video from Pop Evil: A Crime To Remember (and show in Reno tonight!)

Pop Evil have released a new video for the track, A Crime To Remember, the third video directed by Columbia Tatone, and the third from the band's latest album, Pop Evil. Continuing the message of the album to all of us... "Are we divided? Are we united?"

Pop Evil's producer, Kato Khandwala, was tragically killed in a motobike accident last month in Los Angeles: this video is a tribute to Kato, too. There is a fundraiser here if you would like to help his young daughter, Paris, during this sad time.

Pop Evil have just begun a USA tour with Poison and Cheap Trick... wish I was in the USA for that one! Find all tour dates here on Pop Evil's website, and get VIP passes and tickets here! Sacramento folks--still time for a road trip up to Reno, the show is tonight!

Toon's Tunes Pop Evil photos galleries are here:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Review: Five Finger Death Punch, And Justice for None

Ivan Moody, vocals, Five Finger Death Punch
Ivan Moody, Five Finger Death Punch, at Louder Than Life 2017
Just released: Five Finger Death Punch's new album, their seventh studio album: And Justice For None. Their seventh studio album, already with several singles taken from it: Gone Away, an Offspring cover; Fake (the one track on the album that you might want to cover the mynah bird's ears for... or not. I always wanted a mynah bird who knew how to swear); Sham Pain (with a nice play on words); and When The Seasons Change.

Jason Hook, guitar, Five Finger Death Punch
Jason Hook, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2017
It's what we've come to expect from FFDP, and more: powerful metal-rock, blistering guitar, insane drumming and thundering bass, with Ivan Moody's vocals ranging from grouchy-angry-growling honey-monster to the most soulful, deep and touching troubadour on the rock scene today.

There's anger, there's angst, there's royally-pissed-off-with-that-certain-someone; there's relationship breakdowns, there's love, there's life-on-the-road, there's the feeling of being in a festival crowd of twenty thousand fans, and there's hope. And there's also the best cover of a country song that I've heard to date (Blue On Black, original by Kenny Wayne Shepherd):

Check out their website for info on where to buy your copy, or head to your local store. If you want the vinyl, there's a couple more weeks to wait--pre-order and you should receive a digital copy immediately (I did).

Five Finger Death Punch are currently on tour in the USA and Canada: I hope to see some European and UK dates on here soon. Fingers crossed!

More photos from Five Finger Death Punch shows, including at Aftershock, Louder than Life and Chicago Open Air festivals:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Folk on the Pier and Kinder Shores: a weekend of music in Cromer

Fairport Convention
Fairport Convention, Folk on the Pier 2018
This past weekend was a Cromer full of folk music: from the Kinder Shores concert and CD launch on Thursday, benefitting the Rees Foundation and work with care leavers, through three days of Folk on the Pier, with concerts in the Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier, and fringe events throughout the town.

Glen Latouche, vocals, Edward II
Glen Latouche, Edward II, Folk on the Pier 2018
In true festival style, there was something for everyone: Richard Digance making everyone laugh, stirring céilidhe from The Urban Folk Theory, a jazz-folk twist from the Hopi Hopkins Trio, reggae-folk fusion from Edward II, songs of life from Fraser Nimmo, and such an enjoyable show from Palmerston... and many, many more. So many good shows, and such varied performers.

All-time crowd favourites Fairport Convention sealing the deal, and providing the finale to the festival, on Sunday night.

The Urban Folk Theory
The Urban Folk Theory, Folk on the Pier, 2018
There were morris dancers too, both Kemp's Men of Norwich out on the pier, and a dancer as part of Ashley Hutching's Morris On on Saturday night. A lovely way to spend a springtime weekend by the seaside.

Kemp's Men of Norwich Morris Dancers
Kemp's Men of Norwich, Cromer Pier
Known as the "best gig on the North Sea" (it really is ON the North Sea, it's out on the water, on a pier), the festival this year celebrated its 20th birthday, several performers having played the first-ever Folk on the Pier back in 1998, too.

Folk music plays a huge part in British social history; telling stories through song, as protest and as commentary, passing on history from generation to generation. If you are just getting started listening to folk music, check out the repertoire of the artists who performed at Folk on the Pier. It's a great place to begin.

Richard Digance, Kinder Shores concert and CD launch
Richard Digance, Kinder Shores Concert and CD launch, Cromer 2018
Folk on the Pier photos, all performers (more will be added here): Folk on the Pier photo gallery
Kinder Shores photo gallery: Kinder Shores 2018 photo gallery
Fairport Convention: Fairport Convention at Folk on the Pier 2018
Edward II: Edward II at Folk on the Pier photo gallery
Urban Folk Theory: Urban Folk Theory at Folk on the Pier
Kemp's Men of Norwich Morris Dancers: Traditional dance, Cotswold Morris side from Norwich photo gallery
Many more photo galleries: Alison Toon Photographer music photos

Keep an eye, and an ear, out for next year's Folk on the Pier: it's never too soon to make plans! And if you haven't already, check out the Kinder Shores CD, for which many musicians donated songs. It's for a very, very good cause.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Photo gallery: Edward II, Saturday's headliner at Folk on the Pier, Cromer

CROMER, NORFOLK, 12 May 2018: Folk on the Pier, Pavilion Theatre, Cromer Pier, Norfolk, England, UK.
Edward II, Folk on the Pier, Cromer
Edward II, a fusion of reggae, rock and British folk music... a beautiful, multicultural musical experience that made me realise how much I have truly missed England and the UK. Returning to Folk on the Pier, Cromer's annual folk festival, twenty years after they first performed here... they ruled!

Glen Latouche, vocals, Edward II
Glen Latouche, Edward II
Music that is infinitely danceable, yet full of history; industrial and pastoral, Jamaica and Manchester and the guys making music on the streets where so many peoples have made this, their home. Edward II takes us there with a smile and the warmth of a summer's day. And a Night Nurse. Don't forget the Night Nurse!

Many more photos in the Edward II photo gallery: click here!

Check out Edward II's latest album, Manchester's Improving Daily, and more of their music, here on their website, and on Facebook too.

CROMER, NORFOLK, 12 May 2018: Folk on the Pier, Pavilion Theatre, Cromer Pier, Norfolk, England, UK.
Edward II, Folk on the Pier folk festival, Cromer, Norfolk 2018

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Review: Shinedown, Attention Attention: get ready for some festival anthems!

Shinedown, Aftershock 2013
Shinedown, Aftershock Festival
Shinedown's latest album, Attention Attention, was released a couple of days ago, and it's full of hard-rocking-festival anthems. Ranging from the wonderfully-bass Black Soul to the almost-pop-chart-ready title track, Attention Attention runs through the entire range of hard rock, and is going to be mandatory listening for anyone planning to see them at one or more of this summer's festivals.

It's the perfect workout album; listen to it at the gym or on a fast walk, and you'll burn a few more calories.

Devil, taken from Attention Attention, is the latest single from Shinedown:

Get Up might just be this year's festival anthem...

I wonder if this year's festival set will include wonderful, over-the-top pyromania like we saw at Aftershock 2013, when Shinedown's visuals made everyone gasp, or the more toned-down-preppy-but-still-burning version we saw in 2015? Wait and see, wait and see...

You can see Shinedown tour dates here, including dates with Five Finger Death Punch earlier in the year and Godsmack later in the sumer in the USA, and at festivals including Download festival, Castle Donnington, in the UK, Rock am Ring and Rock im Park in Germany, Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium, Download Madrid in Spain, and then, in October, at Aftershock in Sacramento, California.

You can listen to Attention Attention here on the Shinedown official YouTube channel, then go and buy Attention Attention through your usual music supplier.

Many more Shinedown photos here in the photo galleries!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Swan Lake, Vienna Festival Ballet, Cromer

Vienna Festival Ballet, Cromer
Last night, I saw a beautiful production of the ballet, Swan Lake, here in Cromer at the Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier. Performed by Vienna Festival Ballet, with everything just right for the setting; fog on the lake, dancers at the ball, romance, friends, a jester, the bad, bad guy; the evil twin, the beautiful swans, the deception and the heartbreak.

Beautiful dancing, and so cool to see how a major performance can happen in quite a compact venue. Not only that: when you realise that this ballet company, with all the sets, gorgeous costumes, dancers and backstage crew pack up and move on to another, distant venue overnight, it's difficult not to be stunned. It's not just rock bands who live on the road.

(I particularly loved Ashley Selfe's jester. He wasn't simply dancing the part... he was a character, the entire show.)

Last night, there were people of all ages in the audience. Last year, I really, really wanted to take a certain little lady to see Sacramento Ballet's annual Nutcracker at Christmas, back in California... but what felt like sky-high pricing put it way out of reach, especially as I wasn't yet sure how a three-and-a-half-year-old would react. She most likely would have been mesmerised, like the children in the audience last night; or she might have needed to leave after a few minutes, but without an accessible ticket price, we didn't find out. Last night's show opened up professional ballet to everyone, and Vienna Festival Ballet do the same year-round.

Take your kids to the ballet, and to modern dance. Let them hear opera; let them experience classical music, heavy metal, folk, rock, everything. It's how they learn who they are. You never know, one of them may be the next Nureyev or Fonteyn.

Vienna Festival Ballet are constantly touring and performing a variety of ballets: check out their website for all the tour dates... and don't miss!

(Now I need to find a ballet to photograph... let me know if you have one!)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Red Sun Rising: Thread, a review

I took Red Sun Rising's new album, Thread, for a drive to Norwich and back the other day. I've been looking forwards to this release for a while; expecting them to build on Polyester Zeal and hoping for more of the beauty of their cover of Alanis Morissette's Uninvited.

Thread is a collection of eleven hard rock songs, topped with Mike Protich's winning vocals. I hear a lot of influences in here... from the opening notes of the first song, Fascination, which I thought was going to morph into Zombie, but didn't, to Deathwish, which at one minute in sounds more like a Blind Guardian song than any song I've heard while not listening to Blind Guardian, but then segues to an Avatar-esque stomp and ends as a stadium-rock, emotional singalong.

Stealing Life is a rather beautiful rock ballad. Clarity, on the other hand, is a huge, heavy, rock blast. Benny Two Dogs? A story...

Thread, in its entirety, is a grower... an album to listen to over and again. Red Sun Rising sometimes feel as if they are trying to be rock stars, rather than just being the musicians that they already are. At some point, the music will take over, and we'll look back at this album and at Polyester Zeal and Uninvited and say, wow, this is where it all began. (They've also started a thread of pretty-cool videos, directed by Brad Golowin... see the connection between Deathwish, and Uninvited yet?)

Mike Protich, vocals, Red Sun Rising
Red Sun Rising, Sacramento\s Ace of Spades
Find Red Sun Rising on Facebook here, and tour dates here... including Northern Invasion and Aftershock festivals in the USA. I hope to see them tour the UK/Europe soon!

Red Sun Rising are Mike Protich, Ryan Williams, Dave McGarry, Ricky Miller, and Pat Gerasia.

P.S. Comparison to Blind Guardian can only be a good thing. Now I have an appointment with Hansi Kürsch for a walk on the beach...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Marillion tour: Gateshead and Cambridge, England

Marillion at The Sage, Gateshead, England UK
Sometimes, people ask: why see the same band, over and again, whenever you have the opportunity? (Maybe they ask, because they haven't seen Marillion, yet?)

Well... because. Because we all have one or two performers who we want to see, again and again, because every time is a new experience. Marillion do that for me, without fail. Even with a similar set list and even with (some of) the same audience, a different town, a different venue, another evening, a new day, a new twist... every show is new. Every show has its own character, its own personality, its own being, and the two Marillion shows I saw this week were no exception.

They are a joy to listen to, and a dream to photograph.

Marillion at The Corn Exchange, Cambridge, England UK
The tour continued last night in Birmingham, and then on to Brighton, Bristol, Reading, Liverpool and York, with many dates long sold out. The set list, a strong mix of the latest Marillion album, F.E.A.R., and songs from other albums from the past thirty or so years. (Not revealing the setlists here... go to if you want to know.)

Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion
Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion, Cambridge
The expressive, dynamic frontman Steve Hogarth in full voice; Steve Rothery's hypnotic guitar, Pete Trewavas' wonderful bass, Mark Kelly's masterful keys and Ian Mosley driving it all along on drums, together with a wonderful light show, entrancing video, and a beautiful sound production... what's not to love.

Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion
Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion, Gateshead
The Sage, Gateshead: a venue built for symphonies, with acoustics that orchestras dream of; soft seats, no standing, two ringed balconies; a place for sitting and dreaming away with the music. The Corn Exchange, Cambridge, a historic and lively building that once saw the weekly trading of farmers, reminiscent of Thomas Hardy; (I was wandering around Cambridge all afternoon thinking of Oxford and Hardy... another place I need to visit.)

Steve Hogarthy, vocals, Marillion
Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion, Cambridge
There are people who travel the world to see, and hear, their best bands; Marillion fans, more than any band I know. There's a reason for that.

Mark Kelly, keyboards, Marillion
Mark Kelly, keyboards, Marillion, Gateshead
If you haven't seen them live yet, make sure you do.

Ian Mosely, drums, Marillion
Ian Mosely, drums, Marillion, Gateshead
All Marillion tour and festival dates can be found here: 

Marillion, The Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Many more pictures in the photo galleries, and you can buy pictures too:

- Marillion at The Sage, Gateshead, 11th April 2018
- Marillion at The Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 13th April 2018

Marillion, The Sage, Gateshead