Archives: September 30, 2023

#Crawlers at The Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool

Stepping outside of my usual reporting area, the editor for my column at #warringtonworldwide magazine invited me to review the band ‘Crawlers’ at The Invisible Wind Factory in Liverpool on Saturday 23rd September.

If the reader has not been to this venue (as I hadn’t) you can read about it here :

Suffice to say, this all-black, cavernous room with huge wind related art installations hanging from the ceiling, a huge stage at one end and a bar at the other was ideally suited for the Crawlers homecoming gig, and although I wasn’t too familiar with the band I had done my homework and consulted Spotify and You Tube for the playlist . 

Furthermore, I found an article from the March 2022 edition of Music Magazine NME that reported Merseyside misfits making striking alt-rock with a powerful message’ , and referred to them as a ‘Liverpool Gang’ However us Northerner’s always like to quantify such statements, especially when guitarist Amy Woodall and bassist Liv May are Warringtonians, and with Holly Minto on lead vocals and Harry Breen on drums I read the band had created a unique following for their ‘genreless and genderless music’ although I believe ‘misfits’  is going a bit far. I just see a likeable group of ex-performing arts students who have encouraged a huge Tik -Tok audience to join in on their musical journey and share their own personal feelings along the way. The difference being that through sheer hard work the band chose to personally engage with their devoted fans (affectionately known as Crawlers) at every opportunity- very refreshing.

Tonight is such an occasion and shortly after 9pm the band is on stage for the near capacity crowd of 1500 revellers and Holly greets them with “the biggest headline act for us so far!” much to everybody’s delight, before the drum and bass kick in .It is a deep and heavy sound and initially it is difficult to hear the melody and the early vocals are a bit muddy, but kudos to the sound engineers as it was quickly balanced by the second number and it wasn’t long before Holly took command of the crowd with enormous confidence. When she said “I want everybody to jump” they jumped, and the audience were quickly pogoing around punk style in the friendliest mosh-pit I have seen. In this diverse and culture embracing crowd there is no shortage of coloured hair, piercings, top – hats and tutu’s and for some reason blow up aliens seem to be the order of the evening!

 But what about the music??  To be honest it’s not all my type, although I do like the solo electro- acoustic numbers from Holly, she has a very clear voice with lyrics expressed in a sweet, high and low drawling style adding emotion to some (perhaps) difficult themes, there are also some clever effects from someone lurking at the back of the stage which adds plenty of colour to the songs and continues throughout the performance . However, readers shouldn’t let my own opinion detract from what is an excellent performance, after all what a boring world it would be if we all liked the same music, check them out yourself! 

From a marketing perspective it is interesting to see how the ‘Crawlers’ developed their large fanbase across social media and having signed to Polydor Records in 2022 I’m sure they will be welcomed with open arms on their short upcoming tour of North America in October. I certainly hope so, but I wonder if a drink in Friars Court will ever be the same again for Amy and Liv?

Read about  ‘Crawlers’ at where you can access all their social media platforms.

#Starsailor at #Warrington Wolves

Morning folks , been a bit busy lately writing for my music column at #warringtonworldwide magazine , I am really lucky in that respect as (it’s an unpaid voluntary post) I get to see many bands with a press ticket and that’s not really work is it!!

Although the following couple of reviews obviously aren’t unsigned bands, I have had some nice comments on earlier work so I thought it would be nice to post them , hope you enjoy them and please feel free to comment. Don’t forget you can follow us on facebook .

On the 12th September a fundraiser in aid of The Wolves Academy tour of Australia 2024 took place at the 40/20 lounge inside the Halliwell Jones Stadium, it was organised by Alexandra Chicken – Chair of Warrington Wolves Supporters Trust and was generously supported by local, and very popular band Starsailor .

Approximately 280 people thoroughly enjoyed an excellent, short electro – acoustic set of approximately 40 mins although it was originally scheduled for 30, and quite how the band selected the songs from such a huge back catalogue was beyond me, we could have easily been there all night!!  From the moment the band appeared the atmosphere was electric as they were definitely amongst friends tonight and there was little doubt that James Walsh ( Lead guitar and vocals) , James Stelfox ( Bass ) , Barry Westhead ( Keyboards) and Ben Byrne ( on Cahon ) were ‘up for it’ as well. 

“Good to be here Warrington!”  from a smiling James was greeted with the usual whoops of delight from the excited groups of ladies before the band launched into ‘Poor Misguided Fool ‘.

Now, I have seen Starsailor twice before, I recall the last time was probably about 3 years ago ,and yet again this highly experienced, professional band were absolutely faultless, had they really been away? 

 The sound was excellent and just right for this venue as it’s not really a music setting, vocals were pitch perfect, keyboards from Barry were cutting through nicely and even Ben’s Cahon and tambourine combo was clearly heard, so kudos to the engineers . After delivering hits ‘Alchoholic’ and ‘Tell me it’s not over’  James asked people to “close in, fill the gap at the front” , nobody required a second prompt and with plenty of good humour people shuffled forward, quickly claiming a spot to be within touching distance and then we were all in real party mode!  Hit records ‘Fever’, ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Four to the Floor’ followed prior to a short pause to remove the jackets and cool off. James briefly mentioned the great work of the Warrington Wolves Supporters Trust and how he hoped the band playing tonight would contribute to the Academy tour. It’s always a nice touch when bands talk about their roots and tonight was no exception as James recalled the very early days on the pub circuit in Warrington and how grateful the band were for the support at that time, nearly 23 years ago now! 

After a quick tune up and a few jokes we were on to ‘Silence is Easy’ , a massive hit for the band in 2003 which was delivered with the usual finesse and the audience were loving this with beaming smiles all around which were reciprocated by the band who were clearly enjoying themselves. This was followed up with ‘Tie up my hands’ before James commanded the audience with a solo rendition of  ‘What a Wonderful World’ . It’s a fact that =some music magazines are full of unique and sometimes unfathomed reviews, but when NME wrote that ‘Starsailor are blessed with a singer whose voice thrummed like an emotional telegraph’ they were spot on, there was not a dry eye in the house for Louis Armstrong’s huge hit.

“Good luck to the Academy on the fundraising and thanks again Warrington, you’ve been amazing!!”  were the final words from James , and sadly the show was drawing to a close with the driving, melodic ‘Good Souls’ being playedfor the exuberant audience who had certainly witnessed true musicianship. However, before the band departed there was one very nice touch remaining from organizer Alex as she presented James (on behalf of the band) with their own framed Starsailor rugby shirt signed by the Warrington Wolves 1st Team.

Post music, a raffle for an additional signed Starsailor commemorative rugby shirt raised a whopping £390 in a humorous ‘bidding war’  and organiser Alex later reported the evening had raised a further £4300 for the Academy tour, overall a magnificent effort and a very successful evening, well done to everyone involved . 

No Scales required for ‘Balancing Act’

7th Sept 2023 – The Deaf Institute – Manchester

I could just write Wow!! and sign off there, but after following Balancing Act for about 10 months I could hardly wait to see them. “The Deaf Institute???” I hear you cry …………..well , if you have never been there you can look up the history of this fascinating venue below , I love it – intimate , great acoustics and the bar is even in the same room!

But tonight, and following a great performance by support act ‘The Kites’ , I’m stood before a dimly lit, red stage along with about 250 revellers eagerly awaiting the arrival of the lads whilst hovering over the merch sold by ‘Cowboy Lou’ and cradling a £5 pint of Madri ( not bad price really ). I can’t recall if it was ‘Sexy Boy’ by Air that preceded their arrival at 9.15pm or not, did I imagine that? However to rapturous applause and in a flash behind my back they were on stage. Now the place was absolutely buzzing, after all, this was the homecoming for my fellow ‘Mancs’ – Frontman and Rhythm guitarist Kai Roberts and lead guitarist Jackson Couzens, and with the rhythm section of David Carpenter on Bass and George Le Page on Drums they kicked off with the aptly named ‘Intro’. To the ‘newbie’ this may have sounded like a short tune-up but they smoothly segued into ‘Cold’, a cracking mid-tempo warm up song for the band. The perfect paradiddles from George and those lovely eastern sounding chords from the Epiphone of Jackson had the crowd bopping along (was it me , did this really sound so good?).

“Very bright up here , can we have it a bit darker?……………… evening Manny!!!” cry’s the charismatic front man Kai, and clad in his white vest he gets the roar of approval I’m sure he was hoping for. “Thanks to everybody for coming down on a Thursday night and great to see so many friends”. More roars of approval and I’m certain had he asked for a pint they would have been 5 deep at the bar! Before long the few opening chords and staccato strokes on a tight snare signalled the arrival of ‘Before I Shoot’ and if I was to recommend a new listener to the band this is the song I would advise listening to first. It contains everything that typifies Balancing Act – spot on tempo, light and shade, superb lead vocals and church-like harmonies. Coupled with heartfelt lyrics it takes you to places in a song where you don’t expect to be , as a drummer myself it’s a great piece of work and very clever .

Now readers, I could wax lyrical about each song played and they were all brilliant, but for brevity I need to confine myself to the highlights, so check out the full set list of new and older songs here. I was kindly handed this set list by one of the band photographers ……… okay, I had to ask her to go back on stage to retrieve it, but nevertheless she could have easily said “do one!” so whoever you were, thank you very much.

Rabbit Hole‘ – A personal favourite and I’m dedicating this to my wife on our 15th Wedding anniversary on this very day of writing . Beautiful lyrics about the complexities of a loving relationship and a moving , dreamy song with pitch perfect vocals, a thudding floor tom-tom and lovely chords .

Cool Shoes‘ – A new one and they have only played it twice, but it was on the set list for the familiar Manchester crowd, I’m glad it was as I loved it and I’m looking forward to grabbing it on Spotify.

Gift Shop‘ – “Time for a good cry” says Kai as this emotional song explores themes of apathy, self-reflection, and the search for meaning . I’m not a lyricist by a long way, but all I know is we have obviously arrived at the more meaningful part of the show as the slower songs kick in and for me it really demonstrates the range of the bands musicianship. Their ability to change the mood from the alternative indie-rocking numbers where we jumped around in unison, to a more pensive mood is uncanny, I haven’t seen anything quite like this in a long time, especially as Kai unstraps his guitar and descends into the crowd for ‘The Saddest Song I Ever Did Write’ (much to the delight of his adoring female fans) , note someone had penned in the words whistle on the set list in case Kai should forget!!

A couple more new ones on the set list before Kai entices us even further forward and generously thanks ‘The Kites’ for their support and of course ‘Cowboy Lou’ on merch ( nice, helpful chap ), before we are back on familiar ground with their latest single ‘Cheshire Smile’. The crowd is bouncing around now and positively encouraged by Kai gyrating in the small space afforded him on stage, whilst somehow managing to display his trademark ‘Jaggeresque’ moves!…….. Just brilliant, the lads are clearly enjoying themselves, even Mr Cool Jackson is smiling and the Rhythm section are rock solid as usual.

Remember what I said about clever mood changing above ?? Well it’s here again, we are back to the thought provoking exploration of relationships with the slower number ‘A Little More Time’, the haunting melodies with that distant Epiphone sound, like some middle-eastern bazaar. On reflection I’m sure we were given a bit of respite there just to cool down – a headphone song for sure, download it now folks but only when you want to escape and reflect! Otherwise we are racing to the finale and a fast moving anthem of the band , the rocking vibe of ‘All Yours’ , we sense the end is near and the crowd don’t want to let go, but sadly for us Mancs it’s all over and the lights ‘go-up’ . Some appear shell-shocked and hang around grabbing merch and photos before disappearing back into reality and the balmy evening on Grosvenor Street.

What a night, would I go again?? ………in a heartbeat!!. The band have far exceeded my expectations, they are refreshing and exciting and have restored my faith in a world that seems obsessed with manufactured pop, tribute bands and mind numbing reality TV. Absolutely outstanding.

Music on the move?

Sometimes my job dictates I have to drive 3-6 hours to a site to do 4 hours work , stay overnight in a hotel or just drive all the way back! Now , i absolutely detest driving and used to take all types of short cuts to gain perhaps 25 mins , well not anymore folks.

Like a latter day John Peel listening to endless demo cassettes in his car , I find myself doing the same but with the luxury of Spotify new music playlists……

“Where have you been Luddite , they’ve been around ages” I hear you scream!!

Perhaps they have but with the endless streaming platforms out there I confess to sampling them all!! However , I have finally settled on Spotify and am picking up some cracking tracks from Unsigned bands , don’t forget that is the aim of my blog and my recently launched Music Publicist offering. In fact there are so many tracks I have quite a list for ‘Single of the Week’ on my Facebook site – simply named . Perhaps you want to head over there and give me a follow???

My simple message here is that next time you think your new single is going nowhere just remember that somebody , somewhere is always listening.

Keep em coming folks , chin up ……… cheers.