Darren and Gary Sparks from RT3 , Purple Hearts
I followed the ever evolving line up in the months preceding the event and was impressed by both the amount of bands that would be squeezed into the weekend and also by their diversity, spanning the period from 1979 right up to the present day
So, on Friday May 1st after the short journey from Dublin, I found myself in the Sound Bar in Birmingham city for the kick off of the weekend events. As is not unusual at these events the first night was a much quieter affair than the following two days would prove to be. But for those of us that did attend we were treated to two excellent bands and a great mix of sounds from the DJs. First band on the bill were a band called Nite Politics. Certainly the youngest band of the weekend, I’m sure they are all probably still in school, but their probable inexperience and slight nerves were more than compensated by their ability, playing a mixture of powerpop/punk tinged originals and covers.
The remainder of the night for me was spent drinking pints of ale and chatting to people while the DJs earned their keep. I left for my hotel at about 2.30am with the party still going on but Saturday was going to be a long day and I needed my rest!
After waking remarkably unhungover on Saturday morning and getting a breakfast and doing a little shopping in the city centre it was soon time to head back to the Sound Bar.
I arrived to the welcome signs of “Sold Out – Tickets Only” plastered outside the venue, it was going to be a squeeze in there today.
The Upper Fifth
The party kicked off in the early afternoon with The Upper Fifth and they proved to be one of the highlights of the weekend for me. I have heard some of their recordings and honestly haven’t been too excited by them but live they are a different beast. Mark McGouden, former front man with 80s modsters Makin’ Time has lost none of his stage presence and the heavy Hammond beat, interspersed with banter with the audience went down well with everyone.
Next up were the 9 piece DC Fontana, I’m not sure how they all managed to fit on such a small stage but they did and their brass infused soul pop was infectious. This band is constantly gigging and that showed in how tight they were on stage.
Even with Rinaldi Sings and Mike Walker (The Circles) pulling out of the event, time was still tight with bands and sets were necessarily short, so we weren’t long in waiting for Yeh Yeh to come on next. This was reportedly going to be their last gig, so I was disappointed that they didn’t play their 80s mod classic “You Will Pay”, particularly as this is the song most people are familiar with. That aside, they played an appreciated set of mostly original tunes with a couple of covers thrown in the mix.
Due to the necessity of taking a couple of hours break from ale drinking and getting some much needed soakage, I went back to my hotel for a change of clothes and some food. By the time I got back to the Sound Bar I had missed the set by Shaugnessy and most of the set by The Visitors (which featured event organiser John Lister). However the big guns were still to come.
By the time The Teenbeats hit the stage the venue was jammed and getting a pint at the bar was proving a monumental task (never the easiest job with English bar staff at the best of times).
I had heard mixed reviews about a Long Tall Shorty gig at a scooter rally in Ireland a few weeks prior to the mods mayday event. It seems they had played a lot of cover versions but that is likely because they were playing to a scooterist crowd who are generally known for their love of cover bands! They were also without guitar supremo Gary Woods at that event. At mods mayday they played a blinder, all the LTS classics were played to an ecstatic crowd but again the whole set seemed to flash by.
Headliners of the night were Squire; I had seen these only once previously and was really looking forward to a second helping. It was announced prior to the event that Squire would be playing their set list, in the same order from the Mods Mayday ’79 event. I’m not sure if that came to pass (the beer must’ve been taking effect at this stage) but I do remember signing along to “My Mind Goes Round in Circles” and the smiles on everyones faces. A great end to a great day of live music.
Several more pints followed while the DJs took over for the night (as they had been doing between bands throughout the day) and I chatted to people outside the venue. I have only the vaguest recollection of going back to the hotel but I do remember another of the Irish lads waiting in reception for a fast food delivery and asking the guy at reception if the bar was open (it wasn’t).
Sunday morning quickly appeared and after breakfast a couple of pints ensured that any hangover would have to wait to make an appearance.
It was then straight down to the Sound Bar where I found that I’d missed the first band of the day The Coopers.
Modus were the first band I got to see on Sunday, they’re a band that have been getting a good deal of press coverage in the UK and seem to be making waves. The coverage though may have as much to do with the singer as with the music though! Music wise, they have a very strong Hammond beat sound and an excellent array of original songs. I think it was a pity that they played so early but they have driven down from Scotland especially for the gig and had the same long drive home, so the early slot was a necessity. Through catching up with friends and chatting to people outside, I pretty much missed the sets of the following two bands The Laynes (also from Scotland) and The Q. The few songs I did hear from The Q had an authentic ’79 sound. I’d also recommend their recent 10” release on Time For Action records.
The Petty Hoodlums were up next and certainly win the award for best dressed band of the weekend. As a rule I have very little time for cover bands but along with The Madd from Holland, I’d make an exception for these guys. The songs covered are the more obscure beat, psych and garage numbers and the guys play them so well I wasn’t surprised that many people seeing them didn’t realise that they were covers. Thankfully these certainly aren’t your common or garden “mod” cover bands playing My Generation and Going Underground!
There was no break between bands on Sunday, so if you wanted to eat and change you had to choose which band you were going to miss. I’d seen members of Sta-Prest and their entourage (wearing sleeveless t-shirts announcing that they love Big Dick etc) around during the day and they honestly looked like they needed a good wash, so it was a safe bet that they were the band I would miss. As it turned out, when I returned to the Sound Bar after my feed, I heard that they had been really good – live and learn!
I was also disappointed to have missed The Bresslaws, bedecked in 1960s Star Trek uniforms, as per The Prisoners footage on The Tube tv show in the 80s.
The first band of the evening for me was Fay Hallam and Trinity. These were one the bands I was most looking forward to see of the weekend. I had seen them once previously at a mod weekender in Berlin – but too much German beer ensured that I have practically no memory of it! A set of Trinity originals and a Makin’ Time song or two really went down well with the audience, which was down slightly in numbers from the previous night. Fay Hallams vocals and organ playing are as strong as ever and a very tight rhythm section (who also back Secret Affair) along with a second keyboardist in her son, give them a unique live sound.
The first disaster of the weekend occurred on my next trip to the bar, whereupon I was informed that they’d run out of ale on draught, cans of ale were offered and purchased but I was not a happy camper.
I was pretty certain that I wasn’t going to like Connett who were up next. I was right. The sound is somewhere between solo Weller and very ordinary Brit pop – and it does nothing for me. However, there were many people at the gig who disagreed with me and Connett got an excellent reception from the audience. I was outside drinking beer. Perhaps that was because I knew that I wasn’t going to waste a second waiting at the bar while the next band was on.
Small World have always been one of my favourite bands but I have never had the chance to see them live and had pretty much given up hope. I have attended events where they were due to play but pulled out or have planned to attend events with them on the bill which simply failed to happen.
I wouldn’t envy any band having to follow Small World but that task fell to The Risk, again a band who I’ve been listening to for a long time but had never seen live. Playing with a two piece brass section really added to the sound and songs such as my favourite of the set “Jobs for the Boys” really got the crowd going.
RT3 featuring Brian Kotz
The final band of the weekend were up next, RT3 featuring Gary Sparks and Simon Stebbing from The Purple Hearts. As The Purple Hearts have recently reformed and rumours of special guests were doing the rounds, the crowd hoped that the other members would turn up for a few songs, alas that was not to be. RT3 however pulled out all the stops to give the weekend a real party ending. Special guests were pulled from the crowd in the guise of Brian Kotz from Back to Zero who played their classic “Your Side of Heaven” and Mark Le Gallez from The Risk also went back on stage to perform a couple of covers. RT3 themselves performed all the Purple Hearts classics along with RT3 original tunes to a grateful audience.
The second disaster of the weekend occurred at the bar after the bands had finished when I was informed that they had run out of cans of ale, so reluctantly I went onto rum (I say reluctantly as English spirit measures are very miserly). The DJs took over for the remainder of the night and the crowd dwindled over time. When the bar ran out of rum I knew it was time to go to bed.
The weekend was an overwhelming success, grateful thanks has to go to the organising committee, all the bands and all the DJs. The atmosphere in the Sound Bar on each of the three nights was fantastic.
A ridiculous amount of work must’ve been put into this event and it should also be noted that all the proceeds went to charity. It has certainly been the highlight of 2009 thus far for me and any future events this year will have a tough job replacing it.
texto e fotos são da autoria de Darren Hawthorn