|Diary of a Troublemaker: Summer 2012|
|Written by Ben Hughes|
|Sunday, 19 August 2012 04:30|
So here we are seven months after we last met and it's time again for some more high times with Vintage Trouble. Let's get up to date with what's been going on in the world of Vintage Trouble since we last met. Where do we begin? They started the year by playing at Paul Stanley's 60th birthday party, this year in April they have done a residency in Las Vegas, as 'The Bomb Shelter Sessions' got its release in the US they appeared live on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. They have opened for Kiss, and had guitars stolen while touring through Canada with The Cranberries. They have appeared in a commercial for Super Cuts miming badly in a box (good live bands can't mime...true story), and most recently they have been touring Europe with Lenny Kravitz. They document the whole lot via their Facebook page where you can see daily photo updates, YouTube videos from the band and fans alike. The passion of this band never falters, just watch the video of Ty singing 'Let Love Rule' live with Lenny Kravitz to see a man in his element, a fan getting to sing with one of his heroes. Now it's the summer festival season and a welcome return to the UK as they did last summer, and the finely tuned VT touring machine rolls up North, where I once again catch up to document their journey and share some truly special moments. For the benefit of those who don't know all these dates were done, as last year, with my best mate and gigging buddy/driver/drinks provider Matt Seddon, without who these experiences would not have happened, so if you hear mention of 'we' or 'Sedd' then that is who I am referring to.
Preston, 53 Degrees - 17th July
As the anticipation grows pre-show we head to the best place to be at a VT gig, and that is right at the front. As the now familiar strains of Big Mama Thornton's 'Hound Dog' blasts from the PA announcing the imminent arrival of the band onstage, the goosebumps begin to appear and the four familiar faces walk on. They open straight into 'Strike A Light' and Ty has the crowd in the palm of his hand from the off. 'Jezebella' is jammed out real long next, taken down real slow to a groove, as is the following 'Love With Me'. This is something that has just come naturally for them I guess, jamming the songs out on stage every night, they have evolved naturally far beyond the original recorded versions; jeez what am I saying, some of these songs I haven't even heard recorded versions of, yet they seem like old friends now.
'Still and Always Will' is treated as a total jam, taken down to a slow groove with alternate lyrics, it's almost like being in the rehearsal room with them. With many bands this could get boring but VT lose no momentum, Ty knows how to get this crowd going; hell, he could light up a funeral with his stage presence. Crowd participation is a big part of the VT show, Ty splits the crowd down the middle giving them each parts to sing. Many of the songs play this way now, I like it, it keeps it fresh, interesting and makes sure no two shows are the same.
Several new songs are aired tonight, a highlight being 'Red Handed' with its down and dirty '70s Aerosmith-like riff, looking forward to hearing that again. 'Come On By' makes it into the set, a slow burner from the 'The Bomb Shelter Sessions' bonus disc - it's not one of my favourite tracks to be honest, but it's given a new lease of life live here for sure.
The shows are now attracting a younger audience, it seems folks in their 40s who saw them on Jools Holland last year or supporting Brian May bought the album and their kids have picked up on it, maybe introducing it to their friends and so the sharing continues, which is just as it should be. With this now comes drunk teenagers at probably their first live shows, and what an introduction to live music a Vintage Trouble show is. There is a bit of rowdiness and shouting, it may be a bit annoying for some of the older fans who are maybe not used to this sort of reaction at a gig, but it doesn't detract from the show.
After the show Sedd introduces me to Rick's mum Gracie and Nalle's girlfriend Joi whom he met in Vegas, they are over here on tour with the band, and both are down the front dancing and singing for the whole show. Great to meet up with the guys after the show in the post gig chaos, but as work beckons tomorrow and a 2 hour drive home we head off, we will be seeing them again tomorrow.
I feel tonight was an average show by VT standards, but don't take that as being negative as we loved it, everyone loved it, this is because an average show by these guys is still better than most band's best show. It was a great gig for sure but I know we are going to see better ones in the days to come.
Hull, Welly Club - 18th July
Tonight's gig is a truly special one, from the stage tonight introducing what is fast becoming a personal live favourite 'Get It Before What's To Be Got Is Gone' (a 5 minute song that sounds like a 3 minute song), Ty said "as I stepped off the bus someone said to me - we saw you with Bon Jovi, this place is too small for you - and I said this place is just right for us!" and that is what is so good about this band, they want to connect, and be in touch with their audience on all levels. We here at Uber Rock know full well that small, sweaty venues is where it's at, U2 and Bon Jovi can keep their arenas and their stadiums. With a venue that is dark, small and inviting, reminding me of Fibbers with camouflage netting on the ceiling, it's like some sort of backstreet WW2 bunker, and the perfect setting for a two hour down and dirty VT sweat fest.
Meeting up again with familiar faces from previous gigs, there is a growing community thanks largely to the Troublemakers Facebook page. There must be 30 people down the front chatting away to each other, most have known each other less than 12 months, some have only met tonight. Again Gracie, Joi, and now Rick's girlfriend Anjali, join everyone at the front, not just family but they are fans also. There are fans here who were at the Vegas shows, Jimmy Kimmel and at most of the gigs we did last year. But none as dedicated as Keighley Yorkshire (Kath) who is attending her 50th VT gig tonight. This remarkable milestone is celebrated by the band onstage tonight by playing five songs of her choice. At various points in the show Ty comes over to her (she is always first in the queue to get her place stage front) and asks what song she would like. So after the first 2 or 3 opening songs that mirror Preston we get 'You Save Me' which always gives me goosebumps, 'Not Alright By Me' (funnily enough not played at Preston), 'Nancy Lee', an awesome version of 'A Little Help From My Friends' and 'Blues Hand Me Down' and I'm sure they they just made one lady very happy.
It's a hot sweaty show and is up there as one of the best I have witnessed. Another highlight tonight was the fantasic 'Love With Me' as Ty says "a song that offers an alternative to the fist," after seeing several black eyes on arriving in Hull today.
What I love about these guys is how genuine they are, they always have time to chat, catching up with Nalle and Richard tonight was good. Nalle telling us of their time on the road with Lenny Kravitz and how much they learnt from his crew. Did you know that neat vodka sprayed onto a suit will kill the bacteria and remove any nasty smells? There's a tip for ya when a Laundrette is not on the agenda! We mention the fact he's using a Gretsch on this tour for some slide work in 'Run Like The River', and how he hopes to bring a telecaster out with him soon. Asking Richard about his new kit we discover it is far from new, and is actually from the 1940s! Now that's more retro than retro! He paid a lot of money for it too so he tells us. Matt suggests to Richard a good photo opportunity as they will be passing the Angel Of The North on the way to Gateshead. He tells us they are planning to film the Sage gig as they love the room and feel it's a special place. We offer to help out with some filming.
Here's a good example of the crossover appeal of this band, I was talking to a guy who had been down at the front with us, it was his first time seeing the band. This guy was a self confessed thrasher, a fan of Slayer and he had just seen Testament the previous week. He confessed that he had actually been close to tears tonight such was the impact of emotion he felt, so it's official, Vintage Trouble have the power to make a grown man cry...well nearly.
We leave the guys as they search for a suitable venue for a few drinks and socialising with the remaining drunk and merry few, unfortunately the long drive and tomorrow's work means we must head off.
Gateshead, The Sage, Summer Tyne Americana Festival - 20th July
I sit here at 3am at my laptop trying to quickly get down the very different VT gig experience for us this evening. It started with an opportunity to film the gig from the stage, the idea to get footage for a possible DVD release live here at the Sage where they were headlining the Summer Tyne Americana Festival. The guys love playing this room, this was the place where we last saw them in December, in the round with three tiered balconies it's a fitting venue for capturing the band at their best. Tonight the band invited a small select few to basically be onstage for the whole gig, effectively to be members of the band and get a different perspective on a VT gig. Not just to see the backs of people's heads, but see what the band see, to be free to sit or stand and dance or leave the stage as they see fit. Me and Sedd were helping to film, him videoing from the balcony and me taking photos from the side of the stage.
So we get our passes and meet with Brian their tour manager to discuss what we need and where we can go. We go for a quick reccie of the venue through the rabbit warren of corridors backstage and choosing where to film with Richard. He was wanting Sedd to film from the balcony, Brian said it was not going to be possible, too many people. But this band don't take no for an answer, they make things happen, Sedd did film from the balcony and the footage is great.
We hang in the Green Room before the show with the other lucky Troublemakers who will be watching from the stage tonight. There is a relaxed sense of anticipation, not really knowing exactly what is to come this evening. The shirtless ball of energy that is Ty Taylor enters with wine and water, ever the host, and rearranges chairs to show people where they will be on stage,and everything is set. Showtime I take my spot stage left by the PA, I barely recall what songs they played and in what order, just taking in the atmosphere and the different perspective of watching the band from this unusual viewpoint, but I do remember they opened with 'Not Alright By Me', a song they are promoting this tour as they are due to release a video of it shortly. Several songs in I move behind Richard for some closer shots. Watching from the band's point of view for several songs sure was a strange experience, having the opportunity to watch Richard's playing rather than taking in the amazing things Ty does to a crowd. From behind I get a great view of the audience and their reaction what is happening on stage, for many it is a new experience and one I am sure they will want to repeat.
The show is shorter than normal due to a venue curfew and the songs are not jammed out whatsoever, the set has been cleverly chosen, played straight and good as ever, as Sedd mentioned to me after, it was the 7" versions as opposed to the 12" versions, and that pretty much sums it up. It's an emotionally charged event as band and audience become one on multiple occasions. Particular highlights were 'Gracefully', 'Run Outta You' and finshing with the sexiest song in modern times, 'Pelvis Pusher'.
The chaos of a Vintage Trouble gig continues after the show has finished believe me, as we hang in the plush dressing room to upload the footage Sedd took from the balconies to Richard's Mac, the guys appear, chat, vanish and appear again, packing, clearing out, drinking, working out what's happening next, what's happening in 10 minutes and what might happen tomorrow. As soon as they are changed and everything is sorted we head off. I get a real sense of Deja Vu as we head down the same corridor of The Sage with Richard as we did late last year. After dropping Matt's homebrewed wine off for them in the bus we head off with Rick and his girlfriend on a trip to find the pub where everyone else has gone for an aftershow.
I have a great long talk to Nalle, we talk of music and nothing else, his respect for his bandmates, how he gets goosebumps playing guitar onstage and how proud and in awe he is of his friend of 15 years and how he has grown into the frontman he is. As the red wine continues to flow, so does the conversation, he talks of his time playing guitar in covers bands, with Bow Wow Wow and even Engelbert Humperdinck, how he wasn't allowed an amp onstage and had to go straight through the PA.
This band do not want to lose the connection they have with their fans, Nalle tells me how in awe he was of playing with Lenny Kravitz, how he stood in the wings welcoming them off stage every night, and how cool and down to earth he was. He tells me the new album will be out in October (although at this point it's a bit sketchy, it may be next spring) and they will back here in November. People probably don't realise that this band have no money, I guess you take it for granted that a touring band in a big bus make money, but they don't; touring is expensive, so expensive he tells me. Nalle lives on the road literally, he doesn't own a house, his belongings are in storage. "Hey, I have everything I need right here with me," he tells me with a beaming smile, the gypsy lifestyle sure seems to suit him. They take care of everything themselves, their gear maybe falling apart but the band are fully intact.
We talk of the passion the four of them have, Nalle tells me how he met Richard, how he went to his house, where this guy had given up music, for maybe 3 years, his garden was full of rusty drum parts. It was a split second decision that pulled these guys together, I guess some things are just meant to be.
After a great night the time comes for goodbyes and a breather before the next bunch for us in a week or so, there have been high times indeed.
The day of the Sage gig a work colleague asked me why I was going to see them again,"don't they just play the same songs?" he said. To this I replied yes, but every Vintage Trouble gig is different, you never know what you are going to get. Three dates into this tour and I have witnessed three very different VT gigs, what's to come next I wonder?
How do you define success? Starting out in a band in your youth, you may dream of success as getting famous, being on the cover of magazines, selling albums, etc etc... What do Vintage Trouble have at this point in time? A loyal and ever growing fan base that's quickly turning into a community, the respect of their peers such as Lenny Kravitz, Brian May and Kiss (who they can also count as fans), glowing reviews from the media, oh yeah and some very fine songs! In my eyes they are already a success, yet I feel this is just the tip of the iceberg and as we head into the second week of VT gigs I feel privileged to be a part in their continuing journey and to share my experiences. This week we have festivals and a highly anticipated return to Fibbers, the place where I first experienced them live just over a year ago. I'm sure it's gonna be a blast!
Cumbria, Kendal Calling Festival - 29th July
This festival in the heart of Lowther Deer Park looks like it could be fun; from what I've heard it's like a mini Glastonbury, so what finer way to spend a Sunday than heading off to check out what it has to offer? The forecast is rain, so I pull my wellies from the cupboard still caked with the remnants of last year's Glastonbury mud. We have not had confirmation that we can get in to this festival from the band due to their lack of internet, but we head off reckoning it's worth the gamble, and I'm sure glad we did. We collect our passes and walk in past the dregs of weary festival goers who are on their way home having obviously had enough already, we walk through the destruction of the campsite which shows the signs of some serious partying. If you have ever been to a festival you will know what I mean, empty beer cans, mud-ridden shoes, chairs and general stuff are littered everywhere, and it's a weird sensation as we arrive clean, sober and not hungover on the final day of a festival. It's lunchtime and the festival is starting to come to life for its final day already, so into the main arena we venture.
Kendal Calling is pretty much a mini Glasto, there is much to see and do but on such a smaller scale and unlike Glasto you can see it all in a day, which leaves plenty of time to check out bands. It is a more family orientated festival, there are even children going around with bin liners collecting empty bottles and beer glasses, as they get paid to return them. Definitely a sweet little festival and I hope to return and do the full festival one day.
To tell you the truth the line up today leaves little to get excited about and with Vintage Trouble not due on til 9.45pm we do more looking about than actual band watching. Hanging at the main stage we catch We Are Scientists who to be honest play really dreary indie rock that just seems to have nothing to it, but hey the sun is out and I am drinking cider in a field so it'll do nicely. Next is Inspiral Carpets, I never liked them 20 years ago and I still feel the same way, I wonder to myself why people are content to listen to music this dull. Feeder up the ante immediately and with a great versions of 'Buck Rodgers' that gets the whole main stage jumping as one and also 'Just The Way I'm Feeling' another highlight, and my spirits are lifted.
We stay to catch the headliners James for a few songs, how many James songs can you name? I can name maybe two...are they really a headline band? The crowd seem to think so. To me they are sort of a poor man's U2 really. Anyway it's time to head off for VT in a striped tent just around the corner, it's a bit worrying to find just about 10 people in there waiting, is everyone really watching James on the Main Stage? We head into the photo pit and from there don't really notice the tent quickly filling up, but believe me it did. By all accounts it was jam packed up to the entrance come showtime.
Coming on with a quick one two of 'Cash Train' and 'Blues Hand Me Down' something special brews again, how do they do it night after night? I never tire of seeing them create this magic. As photographers battle for shots with their zoom lenses, I stay well clear not wanting to look inferior with my £70 digi camera, so I just watch the magic as it is created. The stage is quite high and there is a barrier between pit and audience, so Ty cannot do his usual walk into the crowd but he does jump down to the barrier and interact as much as the venue let's him. It's interesting to note they even get reaction from photographers who usually, in my experience, do their job, be professional and don't really get down with the music, but several guys and girls here are wide eyed and have beaming smiles as they take their shots.
York, Fibbers - 31st July
The most highly anticipated gig of this tour for me, it's where my love affair with this band started just over 12 months ago. Their return promises a great night filled with songs that are now close to my heart, and by all accounts I am not the only one. There is a buzz about this gig for sure, Troublemakers are travelling from near and far to see this gig tonight in the town where I live.
Before recalling tonight's events though I just need to mention the 24 hours leading up to tonight's show. Yesterday was a day off for the band, on these rare days off they can be found wondering the streets in search of vintage clothes shops and record stores, the rest of the time is spent on the bus making the most of precious internet time to do emails, Facebook and general band stuff.
As they were going to be in York Sedd invited the guys and their crew over to his house for a meal. The promise of Salmon, home made wine and the use of a washing machine proved too good an offer to turn down and come 8pm Vintage Trouble spent the evening with the Seddons, me and my 13 year old son Luke. I won't go into details suffice to say a great time was had by all, and all the homebrew got drunk. The highlight of the evening for me was seeing Nalle Colt teaching my son how to play 'Blues Hand Me Down' on guitar. As Luke was too young to come to the show Nalle suggested I bring him down tomorrow for the soundcheck, Luke already pretty much made up after the evening's fun was well up for it. Vintage Trouble keep on proving themselves to be the nicest bunch of guys in a band you could ever meet.
So we now get to this evening's gig, it is sold out and reaching Fibbers 30 minutes before showtime we are greeted with a packed room and there is no way to the front. I have never seen it so full, from what I heard there is over 500 people in here tonight, so we unusually watch from the back. Having spent so many gigs at the front it is quite a change watching from the back of the room, the atmosphere is certainly different. So used to seeing the whites of their eyes, the beads of sweat dripping from their brows and the expressions on their faces I feel a bit out of place here for a while.
Having caught the soundcheck earlier today and witnessing them running through 'Not Alright By Me' it comes as no surprise to me that Ty leads the show off clicking his fingers to the rhythm of the song, leading the crowd with the "woo-hoos" as the extended intro slowly builds. It's such a contrast from opening with say 'Cash Train' or 'Strike A Light'. It's a mixed up set yet again with the aforementioned 'Cash Train' and usual show closer 'Run Outta You' played mid set. A particular highlight tonight for me is 'World's Gonna Have To Take A Turn Around', a song I have never heard them do and one we requested just the previous evening over dinner with the guys. It sounds amazing tonight in a small local venue where I have spent many evenings seeing many bands, few come close to this moment. Ty leading the song gospel style, getting everyone to chant the verse with him.
VT turned Fibbers into a mass sauna tonight, it is so hot that moisture is literally dripping from the ceiling onto people's heads and into their pints. There is condensation dripping down Nalle's amp screens, on which someone has drawn a smiley face in the condensation. It is very rare to see Ty remove his jacket, sometimes for the encore, but tonight it was off mid set. With his white shirt clinging to his skin as if he had just stepped from the shower, they proceed to play one of the gigs of their lives. Yet I feel they really had to work for it tonight though, the York crowd was not going to be won over as easy as most are, the band truly gave it everything tonight, there was a hunger and fire in the air and the crowd lapped up everything the band gave out. Tonight VT were a true rock 'n' roll band.
Encore time and as people who have had enough retreat from the sweat pit, we seize the opportunity to make it to the front and catch the closing 1-2 of 'Save Me' and 'Pelvis Pusher', the atmosphere is electric and again I remind you that being at the front is truly the best place to be at a VT gig believe me.
Post gig as Fibbers re-opens the bar for the aftershow, the stories circulate of two people passing out and being taken away by ambulance, of Rick having to literally pour the sweat from his shoes and Nalle ringing it from his waistcoat. Tonight was truly special and I feel will be talked about for years to come, and I am glad to be one of the 500 or so who will be able to say "yeah I was there", a classic for sure.
Stockton, Arc Stockton Art Center - 1st August
Tonight's gig is sort of the comedown after the massive buzz of the previous night. Stockton Art Center is a completely different sort of venue, and a completely different crowd. The room looks like a refurbished cinema, with seating up the sides to a balcony area. Many of the usual suspects we have been seeing are not in attendance tonight, but the large high ceilinged room still fills up nicely come showtime.
We somehow end up in the dressing room again this evening, discussing the joys of last night's gig and Ty tells us how he and their friend Benjamin Jacob have been to Edinburgh today to get Benjamin a new passport as his was stolen during Kendal Calling. So three hours sleep after Fibbers, a drive to Edinburgh and back to Stockton for 6pm to soundcheck and prepare for show. An energetic two hour show at that, the man has the constitution of an ox! How does he do it? The guys tell us how tomorrow they are back up to Scotland for the Belladrum Festival on Saturday, but have nothing planned for tomorrow. They are frustrated by this as they feel they should be doing something, it's like they don't really want a day off, feel it is wasted and their time could be better spent doing some sort of show or just something I guess. They talk of doing stuff guerilla-style, like just taking their acoustics, doing a song somewhere then running off to the next place. Whether they did or not I don't know but it's a great idea. The guerilla style stuff they do is great and keeps it fresh and spontaneous, like the taxi cab sesssion or just busking in a city centre.
Derby, Y Not Festival - 4th August
Okay, so here we are at the final date of the summer run of VT gigs and it's a festival date, a 30 minute set and the band are due on at 6.30 pm. The Y Not festival is a similar size to Kendal, yet with no tree cover is a lot more open to the elements, and guess what? Yes, rain is expected! We get there at 1pm and pick up our All Access passes, good thing too as I have arranged to interview the guys for a Midnite Mixtape Massacre feature before they are due to hit the stage.
So after a good look around and a few pints of pretty coloured festival cider we find our way backstage in the hunt for Vintage Trouble, I spy their tour manager Brian heading into a small tent, so presuming it's the bands dressing room we head on in only to find them setting up for a short acoustic/interview video, cool! Lady Luck always seem to shine down on us! So we sit in on the session as they play 'Not Alright By Me' and 'Blues Hand Me Down' as well as do an interview.
That over we catch up on the previous night's antics in Belladrum where they found a tent to play an unannounced short set and proceeded to blow the PA. On the way down to Derby overnight the bus hit a deer, the driver shows us the taped up damaged front of the bus and asks us if we want to see the pictures he took. We joke he probably has it stashed away for dinner tonight, by the look on his face maybe he did. Then we head off round the festival with Nalle to find a decent seller of fine coffee. We probably look quite odd, me and Sedd dressed for festival weather with wellies and old clothes hanging around with the ever cool Nalle Colt dressed head to toe in fine black clothes. With coffee in our bellies we return to the bus backstage to do the interview thing which turns out great. The guys' passion for music is unquestionable, and they are more than enthusiastic as they trawl their iPods and Macs, playing me snippets of the songs they love, and with a good 40 minutes of footage I am a happy journalist.
As the heavens open we leave to let them do some more promo stuff and head back for some more looking around. I love festivals and the weird and wonderful people they attract, probably the only place where you can see Bananas in Pyjamas, Spacemen and Starsky & Hutch mingling with attractive girls in short denim shorts and wellies. The field quickly becomes a bog and I am glad I am in my wellies.
As we head out of the pit a man in his fifties stops and says how unbelievably good they were, how good the singer is, how great that solo was. It's a familiar story and one that seems to be getting repeated. Everywhere we go after these gigs it's the same reaction, I am not bullshitting here or using any sort of biased opinion, this is just the way it is. There is a growing love for this band and it seems it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on. There are people here, as with Kendal Calling, who have bought weekend tickets just to see this band. They played for 30 minutes tonight, when they started the main stage arena was pretty empty, by the time they finished it was packed and this crowd will not forget them. Job done.
We say our goodbyes to four guys in mud-encrusted suits for the final time this summer, they are heading off for more adventures, and we are not hanging around as like several others we only came here for one thing...Troublemaking.
So there we have it, seven gigs, seven very different experiences; how many bands can play so many shows and make them all good in different ways? What have I learnt from these experiences? Well, Vintage Trouble have a growing reputation as a formidable live band, they have a growing fan base and community of all ages and from all walks of life. They make every gig feel like something special and that is what keeps bringing people back. There are fans who have spent literally thousands of pounds on seeing VT this summer, whether it be travelling across Europe, L.A. and Vegas or our own summer festivals.
As far as I am concerned they have set the benchmark for live bands at this point in time, they have an energy and compassion that is unequalled and I pity any band that has to follow them on stage. How long can they keep this up though? They show no signs of slowing down or burning out. The ball continues to roll forward, but I know the fans want more music, and the band want to give it to them but it is obviously out of their control. The wealth of material they have will come, but for now we will have to wait content with the live versions of great songs that are becoming classics, even ones new to us on this tour such as 'Before The Tear Drops' and 'Red Handed' which promise exciting times for their record buying fans.
VT is their life blood, their everything, they live it to the full, they have the passion and hunger of a band starting out in their teens but they also have the experience and suss of their 40 plus years, and this combination is what sets them apart from the rest. If there is any justice in this world Vintage Trouble will be a household name by Christmas, let's make it happen people.
[Photos by Adam Kennedy]
To pick up 'The Bomb Shelter Sessions' on "VINYL" - CLICK HERE