|Ginger Wildheart’s Halloween Hootenanny III – Wolverhampton, The Slade Rooms – 29 October 2016|
|Written by Rich Hobson|
|Monday, 21 November 2016 03:40|
There’s something to be said for truly great live music events. For all the horrors and losses that we have suffered in 2016, it’s easy to get swept up in a wave of misery and melancholic nostalgia. In the past twelve months we lost Lemmy, we lost Bowie, Prince and now Leonard Cohen. Not surprising then that plenty of news outlets (including more than a few lesser ‘music journo’ publications) are asking if we are facing a crisis as all of the greats retire, disappear and ultimately join the great afterparty in the sky. After all, where do we go musically once all the oldies are gone?
The answer is glaringly obvious – to the brand new crop of trailblazing rock n roll troubadours. Not content with being one of the UK’s most talented and prolific musicians, Ginger Wildheart has now spent the past three years championing up-and-coming bands at his annual Halloween Hootenanny events, held each year at the Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton. From a smash sell-out event in the first year, to a two-day extravaganza in the second, the Hootenanny has been an ever-morphing beacon for the very best in live music, with the event’s third iteration being no exception.
In the spirit of all things fresh and current, tonight’s openers are the brand new band by The Rev and Toshi of Hey!Hello!, the super-slick punk n roll act Lupus Dei. So new that they’re playing their first ever show at the Hootenanny, the band have no time to piss about as they blast out onto the stage as the punters steadily file in from outside. Featuring two of rock n roll’s most effortlessly cool figures, Lupus Dei are a perfect start to the evening with their brand of superslick punk meets old-school rock n roll – think Ramones’ ‘Pet Semetary’ meets ‘Raw Power’ Stooges for a Motorhead jam. With eight bands on the bill for the evening, it’s slightly sad that the band don’t get more time to flex their musical muscles, but from the second their jaws clasp around the beefy bass-driven lines of songs like ‘Valley of The Beast’ you can tell that this is a band that’ll be making plenty of waves once they drop a record.
The changeover between bands is almost non-existent, with Crashed Out hitting the stage seemingly moments after Lupus Dei let their final notes ring out. Where Lupus Dei were a superslick dosage of punk-tinged rock n roll, Crashed Out are a total counterpart as a rough n tumble Rock N Roll tinged good ol’ days punk rock band. The sound of the streets put to a drumbeat, Crashed Out would be perfectly at home at Rebellion with the likes of Cock Sparrer, boasting an ultra-bouncy chant-along brand of punk that does plenty to keep the blood flowing nicely.
The punk rock blasts keep coming as Crashed Out switch over to Drama Club Rejects, the new project from former Wildhearts drummer Stidi. Anyone with an inkling of knowledge about The Wildhearts and their many offshoot acts will know exactly what to expect from DCR – Power Pop by way of Metallica and Motorhead, the songs are brimming with big choruses, bigger riffs and massive personalities. It’s as if Stidi has never been away, such is his ease as he chats and quips at the crowd, and once again the sense of community amongst the Wildhearts fans comes to the fore as the Rejects carve out a slice of chunky punky rock n roll goodness.
Breaking up the punk rockin’ streak, Massive Wagons ply unabashed cheesier-than-gorgonzolla heavy rock, and goddamn if they don’t do it incredibly well. Returning to the Slade Rooms with Ginger for the second time this year (having opened on the July Ginger Wildheart Band tour), it’s not hard to see why Massive Wagons have been picked for this bill. The riffs are as massive as their name suggests and when the vocal lines kick in you’d have to be (un)dead to not want to bang your head like a maniac, shout till your lungs burst and pump your fist for all its worth.
Just over halfway through the evening, and the first of Ginger’s two acts of the evening are set to take the stage. Hey!Hello! have had a bit of a rough time of it, what with dropping their album digitally just 48 hours before vocalist Hollis quit the band (marking their second vocal departure across two albums), leaving the ‘Hey!Hello!Too!’ album to be re-recorded with a slew of guest vocalists. Still, as Ginger once said, ‘stick [me] in the desert and I’ll learn to eat sand’, he’s certainly no stranger to adversity and so as Ginger brings the band’s third iteration out there’s a sense of triumph as they take to the stage with new vocalist Cat Southall.
The third iteration of Hey!Hello! have retained the bounciness of Mk. II, coming across as a more bombastic beast than the original Hey!Hello!. With only two albums under their belt you’d think that there might be a paucity of material to choose from, but then you’d be greatly underestimating the writing chops of the band. Plucking songs from both albums, the band act as ringleaders in a mass sing-along, with new tunes like ‘Glass of Champagne’ and ‘Kids’ mingling with ‘The Thrill of It All’. The energy brought to the new tunes is more than enough to sell the idea that the band are back with more bombast than ever, and whilst the hints of subtlety of ‘Thrill Of It All’ are stark in contrast, the band chew on them with such vigour you can’t help but get sucked into the fun.
2016 has been a good year to be a fan of The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. The band not only landed a spot on the second stage of Download Festival, but also announced an upcoming winter tour, vinyl release of their superb ‘Not Your Typical Victorians’ album and brand new side project by bassist Marc Burrows, by the name of Before Victoria. The perfect setting for a TMTWNBBFN show, Halloween has certainly brought out the band’s more supernatural side as they blast through some of their more Hammer Horror worthy songs like ‘Victoria’s Secret’, ‘Margate’ and ‘This House Is Not Haunted’.
Easily worthy of a headlining spot in their own right, The Men… are a perfect addition to the line-up, offering up choice cuts from their three-album discography alongside their typically glib sense of humour. Still, much as we can want, eventually the band depart the stage, clearing the way for tonight’s main support – The Urban Voodoo Machine. A huge shift in sound from the rest of the night’s bill, The Urban Voodoo Machine are purveyors of gypsy-folklore influenced folk with a macabre twist, a perfect thematic band for Halloween. Ever the showmen (and woman), the band conjure up some decadent imagery and soundscapes for the massed audience. Inhabiting the space of ringleader, freak-show and storytellers all at once, the band certainly command plenty of attention with their own brand of theatrics.
As with last year, Ginger Wildheart has suggested that his performance at the Hootenanny could be the last solo performance for the foreseeable. A somewhat strange proposition, considering the fact that his solo band have all but dominated his recording and touring output since The Wildhearts went into self-imposed exile around 2010, it just makes the excitement for another outing with the GWB all the more tantalising. Once again changing up the line-up, the new Ginger Wildheart Band features (as always) a cavalcade of some of the best and most schizophonically minded musicians in the UK (and beyond).
Starting things out with an uncharacteristicly gentle touch, the setlist kicks off with a massive sing-along for ‘Geordie In Wonderland’ before jumping right into the excellent ‘Toxins & Tea’. For the next hour and a half Ginger and co. blast through tunes new and old, launching around his solo output to finally give songs like ‘Grow A Pair’ and ‘Petit Mort’ an airing. Always busy, songs like these don’t often make it onto the GWB setlist, especially in favour of a smattering of Wildhearts tunes which receive a near-obligatory outing. Hearing the likes of ‘Another Spinning Rainbow’ make a live return for the first time in a while is hugely triumphant, with the current GWB taking the original funktastic version and souping it up to behemoth levels.
Surprise additions like ‘Why You Lie’ (from the criminally under-rated ‘Endless Nameless’ album) and the first ever live airing of The Frankenstein Effect’s ‘Powderland’ (released as part of the Mutation project) provide a heavy bedrock for the band to show off their fangs, whilst a sweet Japanese-language rendition of ‘Body Parts’ by Ai and Toshi proves that Ginger hasn’t foregone his Pop sensibilities. Playing well past the initial suggested curfew of midnight, the party is in full swing for the entirety of the Ginger Wildheart Band set. Stunning performances from both Kelli Compulsive and Givvi Flynn (playing with a freshly broken arm, no less) add a full ensemble flavour to the setlist, and by the time the band encore for ‘Suckerpunch’ you can’t help but feel melancholic at the idea that this band could be riding off into the sunset in the not-so-distant future.
You’ll hear plenty about how live music just ain’t what it used to be. Looking at some of the unevenly stacked bills of the dinosaurs in the business (Shinedown supporting Iron Maiden? Rival Sons with Black Sabbath? No thanks!) it’d be easy to get swept up in the rose-tinted glasses. But, then you look at something like the always-brilliant Halloween Hootenanny line-up, and faith in line-ups is instantly restored; after all, the big boys never really understood this Rock N Roll business anyway. Long may the Hootenanny reign supreme as one of the biggest live music parties of the year – see you in 2017!
Ginger is touring with The Wildhearts this December:
Wednesday 14 - Glasgow, O2 ABC
Thursday 15 - Newcastle, Riverside
Friday 16 - Wolverhampton, Wulfrun Hall
Saturday 17 - London, O2 Kentish Town Forum (Gingers Birthday Bash)
Sunday 18 - Manchester, O2 Ritz
PHOTO CREDIT: All images courtesy of Stephen Curry. Visit http://www.futureproofphotography.co.uk/music.html for more photos.