Words & Photograph: Laurie for 100% Biker
I’m sitting here cold, broke and still fairly overhung on a early new year’s afternoon. The radio and TV are full of ‘Best of 2004’ list. So I thought back to some of the events I enjoyed the most. It suddenly struck me that one I’d really been impressed by was Patriot Games, but for some reason I’d not written it up at the time and it had somehow slipped lower and lower down the list of things to do. So let’s look back, back, bac....(Cue wibbly wobbly screen and fade in hot August weather)
Dunno if it’s just me, but I’ve always had nothing but admiration for our armed forces. They do a vital and often bloody difficult job for not a lot of money despite the stupid decisions made by the idiots in Westminster. So when I got the chance to go to Patriot Games, I leapt at it as I knew it would be well organised and friendly. These guys have no attitude, they have nothing to prove, the regimental badges they proudly wear say everything. So we set off on one of the hottest days of last summer riding diagonally down through England along the A46, no need to use motorways as, on a bike, it’s a fast, straightish road with enough bends and things to keep the boredom at bay. Say thank-you to the Romans for a good bit of engineering.
Crumlin is a little town in South East Wales, which must have once been quite prosperous. Then the mines went, followed by the steelworks and then there was bugger all. However, it does have one redeeming feature - a really good pub that does an excellent range of beers and makes everyone, especially bikers and old service personal welcome. Yes it called the Patriot and it’s owned by Patriots M.C.
On arrival we were directed back across the river, down a narrow lane, over the river, behind the railway tracks and onto the rugby field. After setting up the tent and walking up and down the massed ranks of bikes and trikes I suddenly realised that it was quite a long walk back to the pub. No problem laughed the marshals just follow us, climb the embankment, walk along the railway lines and climb up the other side to the rear of the pub. Erm it seems a little risky in daylight when sober but what about at night when you’re the worse for wear. I mean it’s ok for the Patriots as they’ve obviously all had the special training “Enemy railway line, infiltration whilst pissed” but what about the rest of us? As it turned out the railway died about the same time as the rest of the local industry - although they are going to re-open it soon, so it may not be a sensible short cut in future. But it was a quick route to the pub.
First impressions? Busy. Loads of people and bikes. And good music. That’s all I needed. Get to the bar, order a pint and chill out. If you’ve never been to the Patriot it’s worth going just to look at the walls. No, not because some TV decorator has been at them, but because there are loads of interesting bits of British military history on display. A sobering reminder that one of the reasons we can get on with our daily lives is that a group of people are willing to put theirs on the line for Queen and country. It was then that I heard one of the most hypocritical things ever. Apparently the Patriots had arranged to have the whole rally on another local site but, at the last moment, the council and the plod had decided not to let them. They used a variety of legalistic and legislative excuses, but what it boiled down to was that a bunch of dirty, evil biker scum were a possible affront to public dignity and order. Can you believe it? The twats who made that decision are the same pontificating bastards who always claim to support “our gallant forces” when there’s a war on. They are the civic ‘dignitaries’ who stand around looking solemn on November 11th at the local war memorial - then they all bugger off to the town hall for a drink and sarnie at the tax payers expense and they don’t invite any of the ordinary service personal to come with them. In other words it’s ok if you want to risk your life for your country or even die for it, but don’t expect anyone to give a toss about you when you return!!! Whatever, it didn’t spoil the weekend thankfully.
Friday night slowly blurred into a succession of good bands and a longer succession of good beers. I know I had some funny and interesting chats, but funnily enough, I couldn’t remember any of them when I groaned my way back to life in the morning. Saturday was warm and sunny, what dragged me out of my tent was the smell of bacon and a brew. It was proof that Napoleon was right; an army does march on its stomach. There were several ex forces bike clubs there from around the world and almost under the goalpost were a group from Belgium (I think) with one of the largest camp kitchens in the universe. We struggled up to the pub where it seemed the bugler hadn’t yet blown reveille and the sergeant hadn’t yet tipped everyone out of bed. Nevertheless there were a few people about and gradually more started appearing making a bee line for either the bogs or the coffee wagon.
As befits the righteous the sun continued to shine so we went for a ride. Don’t ask where cause we just sort of flowed. But it’s great riding country, not only lots of twisty turneys and uppy downies but beautiful scenery as well . We found a sort of forest track thing that appeared to be for cyclist, but hey, it says ‘bicycle’ on the taxation class, so that’ll do nicely.
When we returned to the Patriot we discovered that due to the split site nature of the event the custom show was cancelled, but there were loads of nice bikes to look at so the judges did what the public did -walked about and looked. One of the Patriots was meant to e-mail me the results but I never got them (Put that man on a charge sergeant!) so you’ll have to guess who won what. Saturday afternoon saw some cracking local bands and the evening was the same. Unfortunately we had an urgent phone call that meant we had to leave at about (pm so we missed the best part of the weekend, but everyone we’ve spoken to since tells us it was a cracking night. Anyway, that was me reminiscing about last year, but looking forward to this year, can I recommend the Patriots party as one of the best weekends you are likely to have.
Words & Photograph: Laurie
www.100-biker.co.uk 57 56
Rock 'n' roll, and this might surprise some, doesn't always have to be about reinventing the wheel. Sometimes, good music, good company and good times baby, as the song once famously said, are all you need. Funny then that a modest night in a venue synonymous with wheels should be witness to a reinvention, a re-animation of sorts, rock 'n' roll in nature.
But I must not get ahead of myself. First I have to watch, happily, the night's opening act, Stop Stop. I saw this bunch of Spanish exiles late last year for the first time and they fair near blew me away. The band, stripped to a three piece since their relocation to the UK, are currently putting a shift in around the smaller venues of Great Britain, playing everywhere and anywhere and, if there is indeed any justice in this world, greater things beckon for this terrific trio.
These guys, as their song tells us, were 'Born To Rock'. Frontman Jacob A.M. wears his bass low but sets his aim high: this mess of curls and greasepaint is a bona fide star in the making. Guitarist Vega, taking over sole six string duties with ease, is a complete throwback to another age, some quarter of a century ago, yet as agreeable a performer as you could hope to see. Drummer Danny manages to throw a drum solo into the mix before the set is out - a drum solo by the opening act of a three band bill, remember - that is as entertaining as the idea is ridiculous, and shaken up covers of 'Get Back' and 'Hush' infiltrate their classic take on cock rock.
I was wearing a vintage Ratt shirt (in an ironic 'Rachel from Friends wearing an MC5 shirt' style, obviously) when I first met Jacob last year. "Bring back the '80s!" he yelled in my direction when he saw the garment hanging from my frame like a stitched orgasm and, y'know what, his band pretty much do that: in small pubs and clubs around the UK this wholly endearing bunch of Spaniards are administering fun and echoes of stadium rock in hefty doses - seek 'em out.
The swell of interest in front of the stage prior to the appearance of Hangfire takes me a little by surprise. With the ink still drying on the cover of their new album, 'Shoot The Crow', the buzz around these local lotharios is rumbling to a level more accustomed to that of a '50s giant killer insect movie.
The sparks fly as soon as the eight legged rock machine tear into set, and album, opener 'Adrenalise', though this could be on account of the scores of dropped drumsticks hitting the wooden stage with the effect of kindling. Vocalist Max Rhead commands the stage in a surprisingly humble manner, bassist Bobby Goo to his left throwing out enough shapes for the two of them.
I was thrilled last month when Uber Rock's Matt Phelps conducted an interview with guitarist Lee ' Lizzy' Evans and never once mentioned that the fret fingerer was blind. It shouldn't matter with music, it really shouldn't, but live, well, it just has to be pointed out. This guy stands there and rips out one fat riff after another, faultless solo after faultless solo, and this kind of talent in the face of adversity should not be allowed to drift away without acclaim.
Single 'For Crying Out Loud' is welcomed, already, like an old friend while 'Bodies', heavy of riff, shakes at least a couple of the venue's beams loose. This is stripped back rock in its purest form, basic yet buoyant, that rattles through the body and hits the all the right buttons. You'd be hard pressed to argue, as set closer 'Drop The Bomb' fades into the dust, that the interest in Hangfire isn't warranted: a Summer drought, maybe a festival appearance or two, could see the flames of this fire fan out of control.
I saw Wrathchild a number of years ago when they were operating under the bastardized 'Psychowrath' moniker: they were good, it has to be said, but, compared to the energized outfit that hit the stage tonight with 'I Luv The Night', that former guise was but a shadow of the band in 2012.
The reinvention complete, dayglo re-animation fluid injected into their veins, Wrathchild are, simply, born again.
There have been other members in this band over the course of their delirious history yet, tonight, you wouldn't know it: unless I missed the memo at the door that threatened punters with sticks and stones and 'my dad is bigger than your dad' playground polemic if they dared to mention any other names, there was zero interest, or reason it must be said, for anyone in the venue to hark back to earlier days.
Sure, there was a spattering of Wrathchild vintage over the set list but, and this could surprise people not in attendance to witness this brand regeneration, the set leaned heavily, almost entirely, in the direction of last year's 'Stakkattakktwo' long playered return - ten of the fourteen song strong set comes from this latest release - but you wouldn't know it: almost every song is met with audience approval, the front of the stage walled in by fans mouthing almost every word.
'Too Wild To Tame', from 'Stakk Attakk' first time around, follows the set opener but then leads into a seven song burst from the new album - 'Goin' Down', 'All About U', 'Cherie Cherie', 'White Hot Fever', 'Nice 'n' Eazy', 'Trick Or Treat' and 'I'll Be Your Rokk 'n' Roll' - that could easily have upset the purists.....but doesn't. It works, and works well.Gaz Psychowrath, like guitarist Phil Wrathchild, born to be in this band, has fashioned a winning stage persona and fronts the band with an added vigour: by the time '(Na Na) Nuklear Rokket' and 'Trash Queen' come around towards the end of the set the thought of him making the old songs his own is a distant memory.
That I am so deep into a Wrathchild review but have yet to mention the original members treading those boards and smashing those skins perhaps says everything about the band in 2012. Eddie Starr, looking as glamorous in full corpse paint as anyone cadaver right to, keeps the beat boiling over while his co-rhythmic reprobate Marc Angel, eyes mirrored with cop-like classic Aviators, marshals the bass that bubbles just under the surface.
Hollywood Or Bust' and 'Bad Billy', again, from the latest album, bookend the customary 70 second walk from the stage and back again for the encores, with the classic 'Kick Down The Walls' closing the show in fine style.
How many bands, how many glam bands, from the '80s would play a fourteen song set in 2012 and play ten songs from their new album? Not fuckin' many, if any, I can assure you. This rejuvenated Wrathchild are happy to put their faith in a new album while others dwell on the past, and for that they have to be commended.
Forget about reinventing the wheel, Wrathchild have reinvented themselves and long may this machine (rock 'n') roll on.
[Photos by Tessa Blakout]
“Where’s your review of Uli Jon Roth at The Patriot?”
my friend Richard asked me. It was the first gig we’d
been to together for about 25 years. When I told him I
wasn’t planning to do one, he looked a bit
When I started this site it was partly to make other rock
fans aware of my book, Words and Music, and partly to
develop the themes of the book through a series of
blogs, reflections and interviews. It wasn’t my intention
to publish reviews of gigs and new releases – plenty of
other sites and magazines already do that, and do it
very well - unless in some way they illustrated or
extended the themes of the book.
Words and Music is about the value of rock music and
the (often understated) importance it can have in
people’s lives. Although it has some anecdotal
sections, it is not a book about rock star or rock fan
decadence. (Again, if that’s the kind of thing you want
there are plenty of other books and websites already
out there for you.) At the end of the day, for most rock
fans, it’s the music that matters.
So, Uli Jon Roth at The Patriot? Well, on the night my
mind was entirely focused on seeing one of my
favourite guitarists, an indisputable guitar great, in
relatively intimate surroundings and in good company. I
went along without either notebook or camera.
But, actually, the more I thought about it, Richard was
right. There was much here of relevance to Words and
Music. And it does deserve to be reported. So let’s start
with the venue itself.
The Patriot, Crumlin
The Patriot has established itself as a signficant rock
venue, attracting international, national and local
bands, as well as rock fans from across the UK. It’s
owned and run by a national motorcycle club whose
membership consists entirely of ex and serving
members of the armed forces. It’s what those of us
who’ve been around for a while often like to call a
‘proper’ rock venue – friendly,
earthy, non-corporate and choc-full of fascinating rock
I contacted David Down, Entertainment Officer at The
Patriot, who told me how the venue has progressed
from being a pub putting on local covers bands 11
years ago, to the serious music venue it is today with
its ability to attract renowned artists of the calibre of,
well, Uli Jon Roth!
Indeed, The Patriot’s owners have put considerable
effort into undertaking the kind of renovations that have
enabled them to host the likes of LA Guns, Blaze
Bayley, Skinny Molly, Wrathchild, Tygers of Pan Tang,
and Donnie Vie (Enuff Znuff), alongside Welsh bands
like Hangfire and Lethargy. (Note to interested punters:
Love/Hate will be playing The Patriot on 1 April 2013.)
The venue continues to put on unsigned bands, as well
as top-quality covers bands like Letz Zep, High On
Maiden and Hell’s Bells.
It’s an impressive, even heartwarming, story of
dedication to the cause; a commitment to sharing and
spreading ”the joy of rock” (to quote an old friend I
bumped into that night) that goes well beyond the call
And so to Uli …
Without question, Uli Jon Roth is, and always has
been, a fascinating character. Check out his website for
info on his approach to life, music and art, or to read
about Electric Sun, his invention of the Sky Guitar, the
Sky Orchestra, the Sky Academy and the influence on,
and importance to, Uli of the work of Monika
He is still perhaps best known for his stint as lead
guitarist with the Scorpions, a period that culminated in
the incredible live album Tokyo Tapes, an album which
left the Scorps poised to take on the world. But Uli was
off, before its release in fact, embarking on a varied
and intriguing solo career that has often blended rock
guitar, classical music and Uil’s own philosophical
approach in unique and imaginative ways.
It must have taken considerable personal convicton,
and some guts, to step out of the limelight with the
Scorpions, particularly at that point in their
career, and into an uncertain future. Having said that,
his presence in the band always struck me as bit
incongruous. Not so much musically, but it’s a bit odd is
it not, that a man with Uli’s spiritual and philosophical
leanings appears on albums with controversial covers
and questionnable, almost unsavoury, titles such as
‘Virgin Killer’ and ’Taken By Force’. Not that his
old Scorps chums lacked a sensitive or thoughtful side,
and not that they weren’t a great rock
band, but, you know, when Uli was striving for
transcendence, the post-Roth Scorps were still
catching a thrill on streets they called ’The Zoo’.
And so to the gig …
I’ve got to say that we weren’t sure what to expect. A
one man and his guitar acoustic show? Uli, a cellist and
a violinist? A set of highly technical instrumental guitar
wizardry? Electric Sun revisited? We got in the mood
by giving Beyond the Astral Skies a spin in the car on
the way up, leaving Richard’s teenage daughter and
her friends bewildered at Uli’s … er … eclecticism, if I
can put it like that. (Actually, I really love that album. If I
had to choose material from my record collection to
show someone what can be achieved with an electric
guitar, one of the albums I’d c
ertainly play them would be Beyond the Astral Skies.)
The last thing we expected from the gig was what, in
fact, we got - a full on rock set consisting predominantly
of Roth-era Scorps track: ‘We’ll Burn The Sky’, ‘In
Trance’, ‘Sails of Charon’, ‘Dark Lady’, ‘Pictured Life’,
‘I’ve Got to Be Free’, ‘Catch Your Train’, ‘Fly to the
Rainbow’, ‘Life’s Like a River’. The old classics just
kept coming and coming to the surprise and delight of a
small but enthusiastic audience. Chuck in a bit of blues,
and a bit of Hendrix (or, to be more precise, a bit of
Roth-does-Hendrix-doing-Dylan) and what more could
you possibly want on a Friday night! And what a great
guitartist … mindbogglingly good. It was worth
going just to see the looks of amazement on people’s
faces - truly jawdropping stuff!
Uli Jon Roth and band live at The Patriot. Photo
courtesy of http://www.billibeecreative.co.uk
As you will have surmised from the foregoing
paragraph and photo, Uli played with a full band, more
than amply supported on this occasion by a line-up
featuring Owen Davidson (bass, vocals), Steve Owen
(keyboards), Richard Kirk (drums) and ‘wunderkind’ Ali
Clinton (guitar). Regarding Ali Clinton, all I’ll say here is
keep a eye out for this young buck – his time is surely
approaching – and remember where you read that first!
Through it all I was left with the impression of a man, a
musician, a performer of uncompromising musical and
spiritual integrity for whom creativity, artistic expression
and personal growth matter more than the trappings of
commercial success and the more decadent side of the
rock and roll lifestyle.
It was, I have to say, both a joy and a privilege to be at
this gig – one of rock music’s most creative talents, a
man who’s played to thousands, ‘stepping down’ to
play to maybe a hundred, maybe fewer. We stood
about ten feet from the stage in awe. It truly was ‘The
Night the Master Came’. And in nurturing and
promoting young talent in the form of guitarist Ali
Clinton, Uli is helping to perpetuate all that’s best about
the great rock tradition of which he has been an
integral, if sometimes under-appreciated, part.
I find it reassuring that it’s still possible to find such
single-mindedness and artistic integrity. Just as it’s
reassuring that small groups of music fans will commit
themselves to maintaining venues and putting on
events that help keep rock music alive and kicking at
the grassroots. Thank you to all concerned, and all
power to your collective elbow!