The Virginmarys/The Trews/Born Mad - London, Relentless Garage - 6th February 2012 Print E-mail
Written by Craggy   
Saturday, 25 February 2012 05:00



Having last year been given the chance to review the latest album by Canadian rockers The Trews, I was recently offered the chance to go and see them play a support slot at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Unfortunately I couldn't make that show and merely assumed that was my chance gone. However, it seems our maple-leaf waving friends enjoyed their trip to the home of their constitutional monarchy so much that they quickly saw their chance to come back - this time at the rather smaller venue, The "Relentless" Garage in Islington, as part of the HMV "Next Big Thing" shows.


I'll hold my hands up here and say I haven't revisited the album, 'Hope and Ruin', very often since penning that positive review, but there is something in a few of those songs that long remain memorable. The penchant for catchy choruses may be it, but something could be said for the production too which captured a good essence of the band.


Tonight they are on the bill with Born Mad (who I think had only just changed their name from Mad Dog - the Trews singer Colin MacDonald seemed to think they'd done it mid-set), and the Virginmarys. Both names rang bells in my head, but then they would wouldn't they? You could easily say you've heard of a band called the Virginmarys when perhaps you never have.


Anyway, Mad Dog Gone Born Mad had just opened their set when we'd entered. We'd just received a thorough padding down outside and I'd had my rail receipts checked for any illegal substances. Madly enough this half-empty Monday night show of comparatively little-known bands must have sent warning signs to the security. Incidentally, I just walked straight through here the other month to see a sold-out rockabilly show with a band fronted by Lemmy. But, hey, I'm sure they know what they're doing.

The venue may have been near empty but Born Mad were lighting the place up as much as they knew how. They were good - really good! They reminded me a little of Burning Tree, with their heavy-blues riffs tearing holes throughout the venue. They certainly had that Zeppelin-esque zoned-out meandering about them, but like the mighty Tree they added some blue balls to it and made for a welcome kick-off. Their closer was a bit off the mark for me though, going off with more of a whimper; 'Since I've Been Loving You'-style. Not a bad song really, but not a note to end on.


The Trews, it would turn out, were actually the odd ones out on the bill. Far less bluesy and a bit more mainstream rock than the other two bands but they took to the stage with confidence and owned it. They had quite a following there, which I hadn't expected on this side of the pond, and these guys down the front knew all the words too. Barnstorming versions of 'Misery Loves Company' and early single 'Not Ready to Go' were definite highlights, as were the John-Angus's guitar solos which always seemed to come out of nowhere, taking centre stage and blasting a hole through your head. With only 30 minutes allotted to them they barely paused between songs and hammered on through an enjoyable set ending with a rousing 'Hold Me In Your Arms', and exiting after a job well done.


We counted out our last pennies to find out we were 1p short of two pints of Tuborg (for obvious reasons we were trying to avoid the slightly cheaper Carlsberg). So I thought I'd try my luck and charm my way out of the significance of one small UK pence. All I received instead was crossed-arms and a self-satisfied, "dig deeper", from the guy behind the bar. Thanks mate. So one pint of Tuborg and one pint of piss it was.


As I began to thoroughly believe that even venues this small are doing everything in their power to suffocate the danger of any rock 'n' roll (I assume the "Relentless" Garage means relentless price increases, relentless security increases, relentless advertising and relentless world domination of Coca -Cola) from the music, the headliners, the Virginmarys, take to the stage and thump the shit out of it in bluesy-grunge style. Through a crackle of awful sound and piercing feedback unfortunately blasting all over the venue, the band opened in a thunderous fashion. As the quality of the sound began to balance out once more the value of the group truly shone through. Torn somewhere between Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and the pounding darkness of grunge, The Virginmarys have produced some wonderfully raucous rock 'n' roll. Tonight they were on fire, ripping through many a crackin' tune lifted from their Toby Jepson-produced debut, 'Cast the First Stone'. Having not checked them out before this turned out to be a great find, and they perfectly rounded off what was a night of excellent live music.