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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.

Vinyl continues to be popular!

People of a certain age (author included), remember the world of Vinyl records very well and it appears many younger music fans are returning to it and are clearly enjoying the world of the original (non-digitized) sound in all its glory.  

Next time you are in Warrington town centre (Cheshire) or sat in the 9 Gallon real ale pub on Legh St (Postcode WA11UG) why not walk another 20 yards on the left to Lizard Records – keep your eyes peeled, you might not see it but you will hear it!  

Crossing the threshold you will be greeted enthusiastically by Steve Davidson aka ‘Diddy’, you might even recognize him as he has been a D.J since the age of 13 when he helped out at various shows by playing his own ‘punk’ set at the local Woolston Leisure Centre and the Cantilever Youth Club and continues to ‘spin’ records today at many of the festivals in town and beyond. During his time on the road Steve had amassed thousands of singles and albums of various musical genres to cater for his increasing D.J spots. To the uninitiated, Vinyl Records (33 & 45’s) can take up a lot of space and probably contain music you might not play again….. ever!  Around 2010 -2012 (ish) the music scene was changing quickly and in Steve’s own words he was “sick of looking at a huge stack of old Dance and Techno”  and took approximately 2000 records to various charity shops around town.

Roll forward to 2014, when Mike Wilkie – current owner of the 9 Gallon pub offered Steve a storage unit for his huge Vinyl collection it dawned on him that perhaps he shouldn’t have given away that Vinyl after all?  Especially as 2 years later in 2016 Steve started officially trading as Lizard Records and had to go to flea markets, boot sales and second hand shops to acquire more stock!!

As a former interior shopfitter Steve knew what was required in his new unit to make it into the authentic ‘record shop’ style that you see today and being a keen artisan he would love to see more environmentally friendly – second hand quirky traders in glass & ceramics, clothing, & furniture in the area – a kind of Afflecks Palace in Warrington. When I was there people were bringing in collections of all music genres for Steve to assess, and although he doesn’t class himself as a business man he considers his venture more of a community service where you can buy or sell old Vinyl , purchase re-issues or browse and have a chat whilst being educated about Vinyl by Steve himself . Reader beware though, you will disappear down the rabbit hole, indeed a number of youngsters came in the shop to browse and eventually buy quite a few Vinyl albums and Steve’s enthusiasm was boundless, he even got excited about a 1980’s carrier bag advertising jeans, that’s passion for you. 

So, next time you are in the area swing by and smell the Vinyl, soak up the atmosphere and tune in to whatever Steve is playing on his excellent sound system, if you have the kids in tow they might even get a lollipop, now you won’t get that in any of the corporate stores! 

A chance HMV slot with #The Odeens

Since 2022 my children have been attending a fantastic organisation – namely #YouthZone in #Warrington, Cheshire and they had told me that a very young band ( average age 17 ) had been rehearsing there since they formed in May 2023 and they were performing a half hour gig at #HMV Music store in #Warrington town centre on Saturday 12th Aug as a bit of a showcase. Naturally I was inquisitive so popped down with my wife and children to check them out .

The band were ‘The Odeens’ with Lex on Lead Vocals, Anthony on Lead Guitar, Tyler on Rhythm Guitar and backing vocals , Lunar on Bass Guitar and Gordon on Drums. Their performance space was literally a 15ft by 15 ft square in the middle of the shop and they had brought along their small box amps and dampened drums to keep the noise down before starting their short set of original material and a couple of covers. There were a number of teenage fans and family members in support and many passers-by stopped to watch the performance , obviously the lads were a little nervous but that didn’t last for long and with deserved applause for this rock like band they quickly settled down.

Their performance brought back vivid memories for myself many (many!) moons ago when our timing was a little out here and there, the sound was a bit screechy for obvious reasons and we weren’t always certain how to finish songs. Yes, there were mistakes by The Odeens, but they recovered very well and at one point Gordon on drums had a stick break, and without a replacement he did a magnificent job playing Arctic Monkeys ‘Good on the Dancefloor’ with half a stick!! Our frontman back in my day also had to refer to notes for the lyrics but once Lex gets to know the songs better he will rid himself of his ‘comfort blanket’ phone and adapt the role of the true frontman – he certainly looks the part!

I liked these lads , they can play their instruments and they do have something about them, it’s in there somewhere! Hopefully they will soon acquire the gear they are short of and Gordon’s drums desperately need replacing! With a decent sound system and a gig booked on the 8th Sept at #The Pyramid in Warrington, plus a DIY recording of their first single ‘Dirtbag’ being produced by the Sound Engineer (Loz) on the 18th Aug at #YouthZone, I will be watching very closely and reporting their progress, well done lads – great job.

Remember you heard it here first folks

Meeting ‘Muddy Elephant’

Does the name sound familiar?  If you were at Warringtons Music Fest in June this year it should be , as they played a short, yet very entertaining set and stirred the crowd from a bit of a mid-afternoon slumber.

So who are Muddy Elephant? 

Following a sold-out gig at Telford Warehouse in Chester I caught up with them for a chat at the Cheesefields Festival in Latchford. Muddy Elephant are Sam on lead vocals and Rhythm Guitar, Warrington born Carlos on Lead Guitar, Matt on Bass and Harry on drums. The band officially formed in 2019 but the seeds were sown some years before when frontman Sam and Matt studied GCSE music together at school.

Describing their music genre as Indie/Rock with a sprinkling of pop, the band released their first single ‘Alice’ in 2019 and this D.I.Y recording relates to Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson in the detective series ‘ Luther’ . Alice has murdered her parents (and their dog) – in such a calculated fashion, that not even Luther is able to prove her guilt, of which he is absolutely certain. Quite a macabre subject to write about but it shows the level of thought that frontman Sam invests into his lyrics and was perhaps, an indication of what was to follow in subsequent years.When you hear the band play ‘Alice’ in a live setting now in 2023 it demonstrates how the band have matured, it is a more complete and polished sound.

2020 was a busy time for the band, they released their second single ‘Helter Skelter’ –  a fast ‘Spandau Ballet’ sounding song with very strong vocals from Sam and lyrics that reflect another Groundhog day- that recurring situation in which events that have happened before happen again, in what seems to be exactly the same way, the 9 to 5 of daily life.   See what you think of it here;

‘Helter Skelter’ was closely followed by ‘Tusk’ and it is here that Muddy Elephant’s signature sound was being firmly established – fast tempo from a very tight rhythm section , driving- jangling guitars , excellent lead vocals again and solid backing vocals from Matt.  My mention of  “the reason for the lyrics of Tusk?”  was the only time I had witnessed Sam break from his jovial and relaxed demeanour as he alluded to the Ivory trade in this song,  and the lifting of the ban by Donald Trump , something he is clearly very passionate about. You can view the You Tube lyrics video here:

Quickly moving on to their fourth release ‘When in Rome’ in 2021- this is an easy going  ‘Summery’ sound, a nod to Indy Pop with occasional Viola Beach chords which are now difficult to avoid in this genre of music. When you go to see the band expect them to invite you to join in the chorus as this is a feel-good singalong song , it’s not hard , even for the mature reader!  Again, and through the power of You Tube , the lads can be seen enjoying themselves in this very well produced video which is a pleasure to watch;

Finally, this year the band released ‘Lonely’ and although you will only find the acoustic video of this on You Tube at the moment , they are working on the new video for release soon. In the meantime why not check out the track on Spotify for the ultimate audio experience of the band in their latest and final guise (with new drummer Harry ). ‘Lonely’ was another track recorded at Gareth Nuttall’s – The Lounge Recording Studio in Wigan, who also produced The Lottery Winners and Frank Turner , and what an excellent job he has done . You can hear the progress and development in a band that has settled down nicely .Witness the clever transition in tempo and dynamics between verse and chorus with riffs that border on Foo Fighters and as usual – superb, resonant vocals high in the mix. 

Just for a laugh I asked ” do you actually play anything slow?” and surprisingly they are planning something this year, but for now the band content themselves with a few covers to change the set tempo and I can vouch they do it very well , especially ‘Mardy Bum’ by the Arctic Monkeys.  With more and more gigs planned for the remainder of the year it would be a complete travesty if these likeable lads didn’t get more recognition from the record industry and an even bigger fan base. However, with their usual modesty Matt states their aim is to play full time , get noticed and do more festivals and if a deal comes their way so be it . For now they just love to play and they are certainly doing that this summer, they are an excellent and entertaining outfit who are working very hard and music lovers should catch them quickly and tell me I’m not biased!  

Readers can check out the band and follow them on any of the usual platforms:


Facebook – 

Instagram –

Twitter –

Spotify – search Muddy Elephant

A Great day out at Cheesefields Festival , #Warrington

Approximately 300 revellers thoroughly enjoyed an excellent ‘sold out’ festival of music at The Cheshire Cheese Pub in Latchford for their inaugural event on Saturday 29th July.

Unlike the previous fortnight of unpredictable weather that sadly hampered a few festivals, the mornings ominous looking clouds thankfully held off and brollies were discarded. From the gates opening at 2pm the day ran like clockwork and the blend of talented covers bands and original artists on the bill, coupled with changeover music by DJ Diddy of Lizard Records in Warrington kept the crowd entertained throughout. 

Several music journalists and photographers were present and no doubt they will report on the performances in their own inimitable style, but in the early stages the author noted solid sets from local soloist Vicky Williams, who is very active on the Warrington music scene and hosts open mic nights at Austins Bar and Pashas Lounge in town. Another fine performance from soloist Paul Nixon, the soulful sound of Maya McConell and her band, Suede lookalikes ‘The Lunar Youth’, entertaining ‘What the Hell’s a Gigawatt’ with a mix of very well executed 80’s covers, tuneful original artists ‘Ben & The Believers’ who dished out EP’s in true Rock n Roll fashion, and local soloist Louis Collier with strong renditions of popular covers prior to the music break .

Unusually for a festival, comedian Adam Hughes appeared during the changeover and preyed on the unsuspecting audience with typical ‘Scouse’ banter but it was all received in good humour and he managed to escape with his life before Indie Rock Band  ‘Muddy Elephant’ took to the stage delivering their own music with the polish and panache acquired since their inception in 2019. They are an extremely confident band who are clearly enjoying what they do, and they do it very well indeed – look out for a separate interview with the lads coming shortly in this column.

Next band up at 9pm was ‘Crayven’, a heavy rock covers band who delivered a loud, blistering set in total contrast to the other artists, and the festival dancers of the day- Mr Steampunk and his accomplice Pikachu were upping their game and had the girls dancing in a true festival atmosphere. There followed a quick break by the Manager of The Cheshire Cheese – Alex Wright , who graciously and sometimes emotionally thanked everybody who had contributed to this very successful event and closed with a nice touch by presenting his hard working Assistant Manager Gemma with a lovely bunch of flowers.

By 9.45 the daylight had faded, the superb fluorescent lights bounced around the stage in a myriad of colour and the smoke machine billowed out across the garden as local headliners ‘The Ambersons’ swaggered on with supreme confidence and, looking very relaxed launched into their own set of folky- rock numbers with a hint of ‘The Levellers’ mixed with fun and on-stage laughter, an excellent closing act who were very well received.

Sadly the author had to leave shortly before the end, but did so to the sound of rapturous applause for ‘The Ambersons’ in the distance and a good feeling for the future of Live music in Latchford –  be sure to follow The Cheshire Cheese on Facebook as their August programme is already published with some promising new acts.

Final congratulations must go to all the hard working bar staff, local sponsors, builders, electricians, and of course the sound engineers, courtesy of Priestley College for keeping it crystal clear and running smoothly, live music would struggle without them!. 

The Ambersons

Muddy Elephant

Sound Guys!

Outside Barman

One of the festival sponsors ‘The Dining Room’


Ben and The Believers

Meet ‘The Raymonds’

Following a successful set on the bill at Woodfest on the 22nd July it was time to catch up with the lads for a quick chat in a wet tent off-stage ,and what a nice bunch they are.

The band line-up consists of frontman Finn Richards on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Max Morrow on lead guitar, Evan O’Toole on bass guitar and Alex on drums, and with an average age of just 19-20 years old don’t let that fact mislead you as the band have matured considerably over the past 12 months. Hailing from the Warrington area it is hardly surprising that the feel-good vibes of songsters Viola Beach had a positive effect on their young lives, but apart from occasional guitar riffs in their own music there is no direct comparison. Moreover, there is a definite leaning towards Funk, and with vocalist Finn mentioning that their genre is probably more Funk/Pop, their collaborative approach to songwriting is clearly influenced by the likes of Prince, Earth Wind & Fire and Jamiroquai.

The band’s first single ‘Nights with You’ was released in July 2022 and with (what sounds like) Nile Rogers-type chords it is a very accomplished piece of work indeed and could have easily slotted in with the funk era of the late 70’s. In fact this is clearly the image that the band projects and garbed in flares,stacked shoes and short denim jackets they certainly look the part ( the author knows, he was playing in the 70’s!!). Their second single ‘Follow Your Nose ‘ was released in January 2023 and was recorded at the famous Motor Museum studios in Liverpool, also home to recording artists Oasis,The La’s and The Coral to name a few, and with Ben Harper producing they were in very good company. Lead guitarist Max mentioned this latest single was an ode to family holidays when he often inquired of his dad “where are we going?” to which he replied ” follow your nose and go” – it’s fascinating how lyrics can arise and this jaunty, summery tune is the type you would hear in a beach bar abroad and bring home with you. It really is a clever, catchy tune and quite unforgettable.

‘Follow your Nose’ was their opening song at Woodfest and people who were not familiar with the band were clearly lifted by it as another downpour threatened to spoil the day. However, the band were an absolute pleasure to watch as frontman Finn gyrated his way across the stage in true Jay-Kay/Prince style.with supreme confidence that belied his youth and was accompanied by a superb lead guitar from Max and a rock-solid funky rhythm section of Evan and Alex. Guitarist Max hinted at another single some time this year but if you want to hear more of the band again you can find them by logging on to their website and selecting the Spotify icon or by entering The Raymonds directly on Spotify but ensure you select the right band or you could end up with a bit of punk rock! 

Keep an eye on these hard working lads and catch them now is the authors advice, before the corporates snap them up and are given a chance to sanitize their music as they deserve every success in their own right in this fickle business.