Archive for the ‘Live Reviews’ Category

Blackthorn Festival returns again for 2017 with another blistering line up. Cool festival based in Compstall in the the Stockport area of the North West. This years headliners include Lightning Seeds, Reef, Space & Sex Pissed Dolls.

The festival offers a great mix of familiar established acts alongside new emerging talent & also an evening dedicated to tribute bands so a bit of something for everyone. The site is very beautiful & going off the last couple of years the vibe is always friendly with several stages so there’s always something happening. Last year there was an excellent choice on food stalls & properly staffed bars. Always a relief not to have to queue excessively for some well earned lubrication.

Blackthorn 2017

The main stage area has the added advantage of being in a largely covered area compete with hay bails, it is a country park after all, & the bar right where you need it. No need to miss any tunes!

On top of the music you’ve got art installations & the opportunity to experience some serious glamping!

See you down the front.


Weekend tickets are £55, see website for day rate.

Postcode – SK6 5HZ

Line Up



I’ve been aware of Northern Embezzler for some time but somehow missed them. Tonight has proven this to be my loss. The venue, Hoof & Rooster, on arrival seems to be a little unlikely for a rock show, a restaurant / barbeque joint, tables full of people gnawing down on various animal parts washed down with beer.

Northern Embezzler - Clitheroe

The band are setting up so I sit down with my family- Clitheroe Festival shows are all family friendly which is a massive bonus! Beer & nachos, that’s a new experience for me at a show. Not the beer, the nachos!  The band take to the stage, four 40 – something geezers that look like they know what they’re doing.  Well that impression isn’t deceiving, they immediately launch into a set of strong punchy mixture of punk, new wave & dub influenced  tunes.  There’s some solid points of reference for this kind of stuff, Clash the Ruts, Joe Jackson, Graham Parker to name a few  but saying that the band never actually sound like those bands, they have a solid vibe all of their own.

The audience are  on side within the first couple of tunes & stay there  for an 11 song set. Well that’s an albums worth right there. Arguably for a first hearing  the set was quite long but they still left me wanting to hear more which is testament to the quality of the tunes & how good the band are.

Cool band, great songs, rock solid performance, where can I buy the album?

Check the tunes here – Reverb Nation

Catch the band live at

Artisan Rawtenstall Lancashire – May 5 – Free Entry

Strummercamp Festival – May 27 – Manchester Rugby Club


Northern Embezzler set List


If last years festival is anything to go by this festival, which is sited in a more picturesque part of Stockport than you might believe, it should prove to be unmissable. Last year the festivalhad a very strong line-up with a healthy mix of familiar & new names. At a glance there’s even more on offer for 2016.

There’s a great mix of rock, indie, punk, post punk with some phat grooves & dub vibes in the pot too. I’m always delighted to see a healthy contingent of local emerging & under the mainstream radar talent & this festival is providing plenty.

The festival takes place over 3 days with the Friday catering for the lovers of mainstream indie with a mix up of big name cover bands with the likes of the very highly rated Bootleg Beatles,  Antarctic Monkeys & Kazabian. No prizes for guessing whose material they’ll be playing. Going off what happened last year the place will be on fire.

Poster 3

The Saturday brings a mix of original artists including Manchester legends Stereo MC’s, New York Tourists, John Bramewell, The Cornelius Crane, Sittin Pretty, Stella Grundy post punk supremos Dub Sex, the unstoppable Run Out the Guns & the infectious reggae DJ skills of Sugar Merchant.

Poster 2

On Sunday we have Maximo Park & returning for a second year on the trot, The Tapesty, Jade Assembly, new buzz band Cabbage along with local heroes Whistlblowers.

Poster 1

Ticket prices & info:-

£55.00 – Weekend Ticket Single – £20.00 for 15s and under
£20.00 – Friday Solus – 5:30pm – 2:30am, £10.00 for 15s and under
£30.00 – Saturday Solus – 11:30am – 2:30am, £15.00 for 15s and under
£30.00 – Sunday Solus – 11:30am – 8pm, £10.00 for 15s and under
£15.00 – Camping Pitch Ticket – Camping for the weekend
6 and under enter for FREE

Tickets on sale from outlets May 1st:Buy tickets direct from Blackthorn 07340 809204, or alternatively

More information  can be found on the WebsiteFacebook and Twitter.

Site Address is – Whitebottom Farm, Etherow Country Park, Compstall, Stockport, SK6 5HZ

So it was a trip to the Academy last night for the incredible pop band that is Hurts. A band born in Manchester that I’ve never noticed Manchester showing any love for. Mind you, if I think about Manchester music since ’89 there’s not been much love expressed for anyone that can really sing. Maybe it’s an inverted snobbery, who knows? No wonder this band only plays a few shows & buggers off to Europe where they are very much loved.

I have been one of the dissenters complaining about how little successful great new music is being made by young people but the trick is to look beyond what we’ve normally been drawn to, be it indie, punk, rock, dance, hardcore, reggae etc & keep an open mind. Difficult for many of us stuck in our 15 – 25 year old time warp, I know.

The Hurts audience was a mixed bunch, including of a lot of enlightened ‘mature’ folk of which I am happy to say I am one. We’re at a point in the band’s British career where the majority in the room are real fans, not band-waggon jumpers. There’s never a better time to catch a band live than just before they break & start to fill arenas where it all gets too far away & impersonal.

Hurts Academy

Hurts have 3 excellent albums to their name, crammed full with memorable, beautifully crafted songs; in fact, I can’t think of a band that has made such consistently good records for a decade or so, possibly much longer. Well except for maybe White Lies, another relatively young British pop band. Hurts embrace a lot of what was great about the 80’s, which I can say being of a mature disposition / advantage (delete as applicable).  I can detect elements of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, ABC, even 808 State but this bacd make it their own. Through the consistent brilliance of their songwriting,  a stellar live performance and a front man that can actually deliver with passion and  a rare touch of humility and not a single note out of place – which we all know is not a given these days – they dispel many of the lazy comparisons. The audience lapped it up as Hurts turned the shameful dump that is the Academy into a temple of song dance & theatre that will live with me as a high spot in my long career as a gig going music fan.

Until next time, for my sake I hope it’s no bigger than the Manchester Apollo, for them I hope it’s the world!


I think it must be 4 times I’ve seen Dub Sex this year & none of those shows were their Sound Control headliners I am sorry to say. 4 shows & I’m already waiting for the next one, Jan 31st at Dublin Castle London? Stranger things have a happened.

The show I’m here to talk about is the slot they played at Manchester Academy 2 as guests of Chameleons Vox. Dub Sex featuring original members Mark Hoyle, Cathy Brooks & Chris Bridgett along with Mark’s son Stefan & drummer Kevin Clark  delivered a blistering set of spikey, angst ridden, hungry sounding joy.

The bands presence, as always, is a set of discomforted individuals fusing together in a tight unit painting a hypnotically stark musical landscape which certainly takes me back to the pre-bomb Manchester of my youth. This is no bad thing, that’s the period that produced this city’s most inspiring music. The magical thing for me is that the songs still stand as proud & as fresh as when they first found my ears. They serves to wash away the years of corporate domination to a time of raw opportunity & new hope.

The band open up with the very apt ‘Then & Now’ followed swiftly by ‘The Underneath’ so by song 2 in the set I want to kick a bus shelter in (metaphorically of course).  The audience is rapidly swelling  as the band push through ‘Push’ & ‘Man on the Inside’ before delivering a knockout rendition of ‘Caved In’ & the notoriously difficult to please Chameleons audience are onside. They’d have to be deaf or daft not to be. Dub Sex then blast through, I’m Not afraid’, ‘North by North East’ & then a new one ‘Breathe in Deep’ which is already a firm favourite of mine after just one listen, this song puts a little more ‘dub’ into Dub Sex. I need a copy of that soon! Then we get a the wondefull sardonic ‘Time of Life’, I had to smile when they played this as the ‘mature’ (yes me included) audience warmed up a little more. ‘Swerve’ always a firm favourite wins the band many more cheers before they finish to a near full room with ‘Tripwire’ & they’re gone leaving a sonic void until next time.

For me it was a dual experience of being in the presence of a sound that suits perfectly how I feel today which is hungry for music with some edge & attitude whilst at the same time transporting me back to the anticipation & optimism of my 20’s when everything was still possible

Dub Sex - Set List 21 12 14A phenomenal set from a band fully on it’s game, they may have been in the guest spot but that was a set worthy of any headliner.  The good news I hear is the band are recording new material & if ‘Breathe In Deep’ is anything to go by this listener can’t wait.







So 2014, it’s another bank holiday weekend so that means Strummercamp. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be this weekend. Strummercamp is, without doubt, the friendliest, coolest & most unpretentious festival I’ve ever attended. The key ingredient is the fact that it’s run by music fans & the emphasis is resoundingly ‘not for profit’. Like Glastonbury, the regulars here don’t particularly worry about who’s playing, it’s the festival that matters. Having said that the line-up is always well worth the entrance fee & contains enough variety for the most discerning listener (that is except the listener who wants radio-friendly candyfloss pop vomit, which is fine if you like that sort of corporate production line McMusic but then V Festival is probably more your style.)
The quality this year is no exception so I am here to share just a few of the aural & visual delights I witnessed.


Dub Sex – this band is a welcome return, a long lost Mancunian gem, post- punk made in the moment & re-delivered today & sounding as fresh & edgy as it did back in the day. The band line-up still contains original members Mark Hoyle on vocals, Cathy Brooks on bass & Chris Bridgett on guitar. The two new members are Mark’s son Stefan on guitar & Kev Clark on drums.

The bands opening salvo is ‘Caved In’, with Mark’s wonderfully individual & awkward vocals riding over the dub intro into the sonic assault of the chorus. The audience certainly know this band are here. We are then treated to a further 10 Dub Sex classics including ‘Underneath’, ‘Push’, ‘Over & Over’, plus the truly awesome ‘Instead of Flowers’. The band finish with what is probably their best known songs ‘Swerve’ & ‘Tripwire’. This is the third time I’ve seen them in the last few months & I will be coming back for more. Listen up youth of 2014, emulate this lot & you won’t go far wrong.

After wandering around sampling a pint or two of the Strummercamp festival ale in the clubhouse, at affordable prices I might add, we checked out the art tent. There are some wicked stuff on show & we bought a couple of pieces of Dr Freakinstyle’s wonderfully way out work to add to our growing collection, as well as having a great chat with their creator Victor. Also in the clubhouse was the TNS Records stage which, as ever, delivers some feisty punk rock mayhem. On the merch stall by the TNS stage I was accosted by a member of Black Volvo who was selling a his own band’s branded beer. I just ha to have the bottle with its 8.2 gravity dark ale & was assured the band were even better than the beer though I didn’t get to confirm that as I had unfortunately already missed them.


I caught a few tunes from The Rotten Hill Gang who served up a heady mix of funk-laden hip-hop melded with some reggae vibes. I should’ve taken a head count of this lot given how many band members were crammed on the stage.
Next up we were treated to a very diverse offering from Jah Wobble ranging from some cracking dub standards& a fabulous version of the Get Carter theme, in dub of course! It definitely had me hooked & perfectly painted the picture of the final scene of the film with Michael Caine on the beach.

Halfway through the set he was joined by Aziz Abrahim on guitar. I’d heard this was going to happen & was anticipating that something magical would develop & boy did they deliver the goods. The fusion of Wobble, his band & Aziz was stunning. Aziz went for it 100%, bringing in elements of his Asian Blues style & every conceivable guitar trick in the book, making it a visual as well as auditory treat. This was one of the finest virtuoso guitar performances I’ve seen in years & believe me I’ve seen a few. Anyone who regularly checks out Jah Wobble will know there’s always some new flavour to take on board & this was no exception. It was a truly magical point in the festival.

The final act of the night are the mighty Dreadzone. Here’s a band that have been on my Strummercamp wish list for years & they didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen this band around a dozen times over the last few years & they always blow me away. Put succinctly, they are the perfect festival band. Every album is better than the last & their current offering ‘Escapades’ is permanently on the CD in my car competing with the brilliant ‘Eye on the Horizon’ for airtime ‘. It’s the kind of record that should be all over the radio but, for whatever twisted set of criteria they use to choose to play music to the public, is not. The tunes from that album really shone through with a magical performance of ‘Fire in the Dark’ & ‘Too Late’. ‘Too Late’ features Leo & Greg’s old band mate Mick Jones who didn’t make an appearance, despite the rumours, which is his loss as he’s missing something very special at this festival dedicated to his mucker Joe. Dreadzone did, of course, play several of their crown pleasing favourites & had the crowd bouncing from start to finish. A crowd that, as ever with Strummercamp, was a mix of kids & teenagers through to 50 & 60 year olds. Really going for it next to me was a school headmistress & a bunch of 14 years olds. The vocal interplay between Spee & Earl 16 was as magical as ever and was a climatic end to another brilliant Saturday night at Strummercamp.



Dub Sex – Warm Up Show – The Eagle Inn Salford – April 7 2014

For me there are few better places to see a band you love in a small intimate venue where everyone can see the whites of everybody else’s eyes. Well The Eagle Inn scores on that count. My first time there & what a great little venue it is too. Tonight we are here to witness Dub Sex performing a secret warm up show for their first official headline show in around 25 years. The moment I heard I had to be there after being fortunate enough to witness their 7 song performance at a benefit show for St Mary’s Hospital Baby Unit back on October 13 2013. That show left me hungry for more.

Tonight’s show feeds that hunger as it is a longer set of Dub Sex classics, the bandDub Sex Eagle salford April 7 2014 -  Setlist have lost non of their edge, the sound is hungry, edgy & as wonderfully awkward & spiky as it ever was. The songs cross the years seamlessly, sounding a fresh as the first time I heard them 20+ years ago. If you want to hear some post punk the way it’s supposed to sound check this lot out sharpish!

The band’s line up consists of original members:- Mark Hoyle as ever on vocals, Cathy Brooks on bass, Chris Bridgett on guitar & new members Kevin Clark on drums & Marks song Stefan Hoyle on guitar. The 2 latter members crossing a complete generation, slotting in seamlessly & putting in solid full on performances.


The band release a couple of long lost recordings on Record Store Day – Saturday April 19. The songs ‘Over and Over / Time of Life’ were produced by another Manchester legend Martin Hannett. –

The band play their next show at Sound Control Manchester on April 10 2014 – Dub Sex Eagle salford April 7 2014 - 1

Performing live at the superb Strummercamp Festival May 24 2014 –

Catch them at Kendal Calling August 1-3 2014 –


Live Footage from the Ruby Lounge show October 2013