The Secret Diary of a Troublemaker Print E-mail
Written by Ben Hughes   
Sunday, 01 January 2012 05:00

 

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This time last year I made a promise to myself: this promise arose as I struggled to fill the five required Gigs Of the Year in the annual Uber Rock poll. I only managed three,  ashamed at myself for not going to see more live bands, one of the things I love most in life, I promised to do a much better job in 2011. No excuses like being skint or not having the spare time. By the end of January I matched the previous year's amount and, as the year draws to a close, I have seen more bands than I have ever seen probably in the last five years put together.

 

Some old, some new, some I thought I would never see such as U2, old heroes like Adam Ant through to current favourites like Urban Voodoo Machine and the Jim Jones Revue. I went to Glastonbury for the first time and had a muddy blast, but one band impressed me more than any other this year. This band took it to a whole new level and set the new benchmark that all future gigs will be compared to, I ended up seeing them live eight times this year, this band were Vintage Trouble.

 

In my review of my first live experience with this band at Fibbers in York, I said that I witnessed something special and I had a sneaky feeling they did that sort of gig on a nightly basis, and do you know what? I wasn't wrong! At that gig in York me and my friend Matt Seddon (Sedd to me) collared Ty on his own and had a real good chat about music and allsorts, we were quite drunk by this time it has to be said. We had such a good time we decided to do it again seeing there was a free gig in Sheffield the week after. There was a buzz about the band after their appearance on Jools Holland and we reckoned this could be the last chance to catch them on the rise. Little did we know at the time it would be the second of eight vtsheff300times we would share an evening in the company of Vintage Trouble. Here follows a little piece on each of those dates and my experiences in some beautiful venues I never knew even existed.


Sheffield, The Forum - 20th July


Looking back it seems so long ago now, five short months. The Forum is basically a pub, when we got there people were eating meals at tables in front of the stage. We wondered whether we were in the right room. Closer to gig time the tables were luckily removed and the place soon filled up. The buzz was just starting about the band, coming off the Bon Jovi and Brian May tours and their recent appearance on Jools Holland, all the gigs were getting busier and starting to sell out. I don't remember what they came on with, but remember being surprised it wasn't the bluesy instrumental followed by 'Blues Hand Me Down', which had been moved to encore status tonight. It was a different feel completely from the Fibbers gig, Ty stood there silently with his arms outstretched and his head to the skies almost in prayer, like a preacher about to give his sermon to the followers, before leading into an unfamiliar song that was probably 'Love With Me'. Highlights were a beautiful 'Gracefully' and 'Strike A Light', a song I as yet didn't recognise, but would be looking up on YouTube soon.

 

Again they were awesome and I realised the Fibbers gig wasn't a one-off. We hung with Ty and drummer Richard, hitting it off and sharing our love of talking music. I was pleased to find out they had all read my Fibbers review and liked it, Richard even had it on his desktop. As a band I think they love it over here so much because of the people, passionate music lovers who just want to talk music with them, who know where they are coming from and what they are about.

 

The next nearest gig to us was at Sowerby Bridge, it was sold out but the guys said they would get us on the guest list; when I asked if that was okay Ty said they didn't know anyone in Sowerby Bridge so there was no-one on the guest list. That's when I realised these guys were touring here, just the four of them with two road crew guys in a big bus, no-one else was with them. They work the merchandise stand themselves. They don't even have a guitar tech, they do it all themselves even down to changing the strings and fixing the guitars, if things are falling apart they are the ones that have to deal with it.

 

Sowerby Bridge, Working Mens Club - 29th July


So we hit the great venue that is Sowerby Bridge Working Mens Club, such a great room, like an old Northern Soul club, the fairy lights twinkling in the background setting it off nicely. It made for some classic photos, as soon as you see those lights you know it is the Sowerby gig. The vibe was cooking and the band were again on fire, it had the feel of a classic, good sound as well. This is when the newer songs started to take shape in my mind, opening with 'Love With Me', to us a new song then it had a great energy and a classic feel, bathed in vtsow300darkness with just the fairy lights for the most part, it felt like a magic moment. Just the silhouettes of the band with hazy blue underlighting for the entire first song was a grand opening. If you have ever heard Aerosmith's live version of James Brown's 'Mother Popcorn' from the 'Live Bootleg' album then you will know where I am coming from, that's how I describe it, it's dirty, funky, sexy rock 'n' roll.

 

Also another favourite 'Save Me', 'Pelvis Pusher' and 'Strike A Light'; these are the songs that stand out and now months later are personal favourites and make me yearn for album number two. Again we feel witness to something special, a show that will be remembered. I notice people are now getting the posters from the walls, getting all sorts signed, in fact now, months later, I reckon it is rarer to have some Vintage Trouble merch that is not signed!


Newcastle, The Cluny - 3rd August


It didn't take much persuading to get us to The Cluny in Newcastle for the hottest gig I have ever been to, again sold out. We set off not knowing whether we were going to be able to get in or not, after a two hour drive we arrived and were told we were not the only ones who had tried to get in on the list, but luckily we were on there. It was so hot in there, the sweat was literally dripping from the ceiling, we were soaked and were not even near the front at that gig. Ty wore a grey/silver suit and sure enough song by song, it became darker until it looked like a black suit, they sure do sweat for their crowd. Again, it was a good room with a good vibe.

 

That was our final gig of the summer run and, after good chat with the guys about their recent festival gigs, it was sad to see them go, not really knowing when we would see them again but happy that we had made some new friends and had seen some of the greatest gigs of our lives.

 

Of course Facebook has been very important in the rise of this band, with no airplay, or real coverage, it has all been hard gigging and word of mouth that has kept the ball rolling. I don't know of a band that have done what they did that summer, come over here as a new band, doing 80 gigs in 100 days, support slots, festivals and their own headline shows, truly the hardest working band around.

 

They could make it big, but you never know in this industry; personally a part of me doesn't want them to get big, I want to see them in venues this size, this is what suits them, not arenas or stadiums.

 

After a break in LA and a short US tour they returned in November for more UK and European dates, touring 'til Xmas.

 

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Middlesbrough, The Empire - 12th November


We met up again at The Empire in Middlesborough, a classic old music hall that Charlie Chaplin once played at, it is a fitting room for the band and was another great gig albeit a short set due to it being a club night. A bit of a disappointment after seeing the usual two hour set but hey, we ain't complaining. I notice they are starting to draw in a younger audience now, groups of pretty girls and students mix with the forty somethings and dance the night away.

 

The guys invite us back to the dressing room for a drink to toast their success at the Classic Rock awards, Best New Band which, of course, they are delighted with, all the hard working seems to be finally paying off. Nalle tells me how surreal the awards were, being in a room with his heroes such as Jeff Beck, and even just being able to hang around the tables with all his heroes sitting there.


Leeds, The Cockpit - 23rd November


I fly solo on this one as my gigging buddy can't make it, but I don't want to miss the opportunity to see them at the Cockpit, a venue more suited to rock and punk acts, I last saw The Wildhearts here a couple of years ago and they never disappoint. Vintage Trouble are the same in that respect.

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Through Facebook for this run they have asked a fan to come and film the gig each night, giving them a free ticket if they need it and a camera, they are given full access backstage, behind the band as they play and out front. All footage is to be used for a future documentary.

 

Tonight's set is a full two hour one and we are treated to 'Save Me' and the beautiful, extended 'Run Outta You' which were sadly missed at Middlesbrough. We also get their awesome version of 'With A Little Help From My Friends' which is rarely played and sounds fantastic, one of two covers they choose to feature at various gigs, the other being Ike and Tina Turner's 'Baby Get It On' which they have now made their own. Live favourite 'Pelvis Pusher' gets everyone's hips moving as one.

 

Due to train times and work the next day I don't have the chance to hang, so home I head happy with the night's entertainment.


Lincoln, Tokyo - 25th November


As we walk past the tour bus we catch the road crew guys and ask them what the venue is like to which we get the reply "it's like A Clockwork Orange in there!" Not really sure what they meant by that, I half expected to be met by an army of droogs on entering. At which point Ty walks up and asks if we are bothering these gentlemen; yes, as well as a great singer and frontman he fancies himself as a comedian!

 

This was an intense, almost trippy, show, the venue was like the school hall from Back To The Future with the biggest mirror ball I have ever seen. It was like watching in high definition in a little bubble, a mixture of the great lighting and Sedd's home made damson gin helped, I believe!

 

I watched closely every detail and interaction between the band. They never use a set list, it is all done on the fly so to speak. Richard said they usually decide on maybe the first three numbers and the rest is just decided as they go. They use little cues for certain songs, it's all very jammy, songs are jammed out but not in a dull Black Crowes way. A song like 'Run Outta You', the first song they recorded as a band, had no ending when it was firsttycrowd300 recorded so it was literally just jammed as you hear it on record. They end it by feel on that record and live Richard said you can't follow it as a musician or try and find the end as it is done by feel; it could be 8 minutes long or sometimes 11 minutes depending on how they feel.

 

Opening with the awesome 'Cash Train', a great opener, the band come on and do their trademark hug/handshake trade before Ty leads them solo into 'Cash Train',with the refrain "Hard Times are coming" silencing the crowd as we listen to every note til the band come in. Great energy from the off, Ty and Nalle play off each other during the finale of the song, it's the perfect example of the band interaction they have. They lead straight in to 'Love With Me' and Ty has the crowd in the palm of his hand, and keeps them there til the end.

 

During Ty's walk in the crowd tonight he is treated to the cock grabber incident as a rather drunk lady gets a bit closer than she should've done, Ty doesn't seem to mind though.

 

Hung with the guys in their dressing room after for a couple of hours, good chat with 'em all. Talked to Rick about the upcoming Camden gig and that it is going to be filmed, he said he would buy a new jacket!

 

Richard tells us about his youth: we are the same age and grew up on the same sort of music, being a teenager in the mid to late '80s in LA he was, of course, into Van Halen, Crue, he had a passion for Triumph even. At 15 he had a Jack Daniel's problem that he blames on David Lee Roth! He has known Ty for years, they used to have a gang who jammed all the time, just for fun, getting high, playing music, nothing in particular, no real band or pressure just friends meeting and jamming and that's where their friendship grew. So when Ty and Nalle got the band together Richard was the first person he called, now Richard had other things going and nearly said no, but he weighed it up, said fuck it and went over to do the original version of 'Run Outta You'.....and the rest is history.

 

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Nalle was looking forward to the Gateshead gig next month as Lyndsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac will be playing the same night and he was hoping to hook up and maybe get to do something with him.

 

Talking with the guys it's plain to see they are not really comfortable with doing these shorter sets, they want to play two hour shows and even an aftershow if they can. It seems to be the tour they are doing with this promoter and venues that there is a either a curfew or a club night on after the band. Tonight was a longer set but still, after the band's gear was wheeled away a club DJ was wheeled in for a hardcore dance night. Some nights they have a support band too, but they prefer just to play soul tunes before a gig, they say to get the crowd grooving and in the mood: no offence to the support but I see where they are coming from.

 

As we leave the dressing room the club is in full swing, as we descend the round staircase eneveloped in smoke there is someone mopping pools of blood up and there are police everywhere: we have entered a different world.


Gateshead, The Sage - 13th December


The Sage in Gateshead is an awesome venue to be fair, big, new and impressive. It looks like a football stadium, all domes and lit up. They play in Hall 2 and, as we get there, the nice lady at the door informs us the band are on in two minutes - how's that for timing? There is a limit to the amount of people allowed in the room so even though it is sold out it easy to make our way to the front. They come on again as in Lincoln, no lights and pitch black, Ty leads in vtsheffty300to 'Cash Train', an as yet unrecorded song, a song I now know had its origins in the blues instrumental we witnessed at the Fibbers gig in York those short few months ago - check it out, it's on YouTube!

 

With no stopping they are straight into 'Blues Hand Me Down' and we are off and running. By now of course we know the songs well, even the new ones, but never when they will get played and, of course, due to the nature of the guys certain songs are extended and jammed out, always interacting with the crowd. 'Jezzebella' for example, Ty moves to the side of the stage to let Rick and Nalle groove out with each other a while, before gathering up his metres of mic lead for his usual walkabout. Ty's stage manner is akin to a mixture of Prince and James Brown, very sexual. He thrusts, grinds and gyrates, there's probably more than a few ladies in the audience who would've liked to be that mic stand. He plays to the whole audience as ever reaching those on the balconies that envelope the venue. Main set closer tonight 'Strike A Light' is a particular highlight and I witness the crowd bouncing as one for the first time.

 

Encore and crowd favourite 'Pelvis Pusher' is great, but show closer 'Run Outta You' is frankly the highlight of the night, if not the tour. This song has slowly been climbing higher up my favourite songs of all time list, every time I hear it it goes up another notch. The band interaction is amazing, Nalle's solo is incendiary, the man has single handedly restored my faith in guitar solos. All four play as one, eyes closed, feeling the groove as only true musicians do. Tonight I witness their new way of ending the show: as I have said before this song has no natural end, they jam it and end it by feel. Now they have put a new twist to it; as the song jams on and we are lost in the groove, Nalle just takes his guitar off, places it on the stand and walks off, another minute goes by and Rick does the same, another minute Ty follows suit leaving just Richard the sole member to wrap things up, as the last drum beat reverbarates around the room, the lone drummer takes his final bow and walks off. Wow, that hits the spot right there. What a way to end our last show.

 

Catching the band after Rick is loving the venue, loved the show and wants to come back and play three nights there. When Ty saw us he shouted out for security (he loves us really!).

 

We hang with the band for the last time, sharing drinks and their experiences of Europe, having just done a run through Germany, Paris and Amsterdam. I know they love playing this part of the world and want to keep the ball rolling, as we say our goodbyes I know they will return next year.

 

For them now the US, Australia and beyond beckons, Vintage Trouble continue their touring, blowing minds and touching souls with their live performances, and leaving smiling faces and new friends wherever they go. So to Ty, Richard, Rick and Nalle I would just like to say thanks for the music and the company and I hope we see you soon.

 

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