Thursday, 5 June 2014


Manchester Soup Kitchen: 21-5-14

Oh my, oh my, oh my!
  I do like to be pleasantly surprised my dears but nothing, I repeat nothing, could have prepared me for this. There I was, going about my business & getting on with my life in general, when my old mate Bob gave me a call & told me to get round to his place & to be bloody sharp about it!
 'Ok' I thought, he'll probably be wanting to show me his latest purchase in the endless sea of gadgets which seem to be taking over his house.
 After fighting my way past his mad slobbering dog, I found dear old Bob hovering over his computer with dark hollow eyes like a man who hasn't slept for days & a shaking finger poised over the play button on 'Youtube'. 
 'LISTEN TO THIS' he roared. Well who am I to argue? I listened & I watched. Who is it? I asked, some guy goes by the name of Benjamin Booker he said. Well he sounds bloody good quoth I (quick with the repertoire) is he playing any dates? Manchester in two days. Ok then, we're going & that's settled!

Cutting the longest of stories short, Bob & I found our way across the Pennines & into Manchesters' Soup Kitchen, having a swift libation at the bar prior to braving our way into the dungeon like darkness of the cellar bar where unbeknownst to us we were mere minutes away from having what can only be described as a near religious experience!
 I recall feeling a little deflated as there was no lighting rig, just a couple of dim spots. Lucky for me I'd packed the 35mm 1.4 lens & decided to do the best I could under the circumstances. 

  The flaky painted brick walls of the Soup Kitchen cellar bar cast a coolness over the sparsely populated room. Bob & I were starting to feel a good vibe, a kind of anticipation of what was to come. 
 Having no prior knowledge of Benjamin Booker, I was quite surprised to see that they were a two piece band, of course comparisons to another rather successful two piece of recent times will no doubt be thrown in their direction. But please let all comparisons end right here.
   Two well mannered, unassuming young guys, hailing from New Orleans who were very amiable towards anyone who came along to chat, became something of a behemoth when one picked up his guitar & the other perched himself at his drums. The transformation was almost magical! 'Tis surely alchemy, when one can fill another with awe & wonder.

 Bob & I are hard bitten old souls who've witnessed many bands & shows & you begin to think you've seen it all but never have I been so moved. This was intense, like a knife fight in a phone booth! 
 Benjamin Booker attacks his instrument like his life depends on it, he sings with a vocal rasp, paint stripper raw, which lies somewhere between a young Paul Westerberg & a present day Jim Jones. Wonderful to see someone so lost in his own performance, baring heart & soul to the world through a neanderthal, blues infused Rock'n'Roll.

If ever a young man had the world at his feet then this is he. He has the good looks & dazzling smile which can break hearts & moisten gussets in equal measure with nought but a sideways glance!
 The other half of this dynamic duo is powerhouse drummer (& fellow rangefinder aficionado) Max Norton & boy; if two people ever complemented each other on a stage, then this is they. With his rolling thunder style of drumming the sound is filled out to perfection on the faster more raucous numbers. Hey, those drums ain't there to be tickled!
 It's on the more mellow songs where Benjamin comes into his own. Here is a cat who appears to be carried off to another dimension, totally oblivious to his surroundings & believe me my fluffy little cherubs, it really is something to behold '& let no man put asunder'.

So it was with a song in our heart & a spring in our step, that Bob & I wandered off into the Manchester night after we bade our fond farewells, for we both knew we had witnessed something quite special. In the years to come, the sixty or so enlightened souls who were present here on this night, will be able to impress people at parties by telling eager, doe-eyed listeners how they saw Benjamin Booker at the Manchester Soup Kitchen.
 Me, I wanna tell the whole world about it right now!!
Here is knowledge my fluffy little chickens; not being one to wish my life away, the date 19th August 2014 cannot come soon enough. Why, do I hear you ask?  Why? Why that is the release date of the debut album from Benjamin Booker. If any of you fine upstanding individuals have any modicum of common sense & taste (& I know you do because you are reading this 'ere blog right now) then you will follow this link & pre-order the album without a moments hesitation! 

Just copy & paste it kids & while you're about it, you'd better hang onto your hats because this could turn out to be one hell of a ride!!

Chin Chin!

Friday, 23 May 2014


Leeds-Brudenell  28-2-14 

Stockton-Georgian Theatre  15-3-14

Wakefield-The Hop  21-3-14

Aah. gather round dear readers, prick up thine ears, get a hold of your vitals & take great heed, for your old mate Flash has a story to tell. A cautionary tale if you like, but nevertheless one that should instill you with both fear & hope alike!
It's been many a yonker since I put a post on this 'ere blog. some naysayers may even report that your humble scribe & lensman had indeed lost his mojo. That may well be the case but I prefer to think that it's a general lack of inspiration which has kept yours truly from the cut & thrust of blogdom.
Step forward the mighty Chelsea, a band with whom yours truly has crossed paths with on multitudes of occasions on a timescale spanning four decades (yikes)!
 First catching 'em as a mere slip of a lad in Wakefield with their classic line up of October, Myles, Stevenson, Bashford & the great imposing figure of Dave Martin. Lawks a lawdy, they were the coolest looking, coolest sounding thing I'd seen & heard!

 How this band never achieved success on a grander scale, or at least garnered the critical acclaim that they so richly deserve is beyond my comprehension!
 Huge songs, huge riffs & huge hooks. What could possibly go wrong?
 When the classic line up of the late 70s broke up, Gene October was not to be found licking his wounds. No sir! He just dusted himself down, put together another line up & cocked a snook at his doubters by serving up one of the classic punk rock albums of all time; the totally sublime, 'Evacuate'.
 Helped, in no small quarter by guitar slinger & song writer extraordinaire Mr Nic Austin.       
  Ol' cheekbones always did have a way when it came to recruiting musicians of the highest order. None of the dire, run of the mill, one chord, punk rock plod for these fine young fellows. Why, in footballing terms these cats were playing on astro turf whilst all around them, their supposed betters were merely hoofing it through a muddy North Yorkshire potato field!

It was also bloody grand to see 'em playing on some pretty big stages on the 'So what' tour.
 Y'see here was a band who were equally adept in the smaller clubs or lording it up on some of the countrys bigger stages. Gene October being an exponent of the art of stagecraft, commanding a large crowd with ease & having the know how when it comes to making yourself look big on a big stage. No shrinking violet our Gene!
I've seen these blokes play in many a toilet up & down this isle, but I've also been fortunate enough to see them on a couple of more salubrious occasions. 
Leeds Queens Hall was host to the 'christmas on earth' all day punk festival. If my memory serves me right, the year was 1981. In the worst of British weather 7000 people crammed into this old bus depot to witness some of punk rocks old guard mix it with the new order. 
Chelsea took to the boards around teatime & delivered one hell of a blistering performance. By the end of their set 7000 people to a man were hollering their name. Damn, they were nigh on impossible to follow. I don't mind telling you this old coat was somewhat overwhelmed! 

In nineteen eighty something (my memory fades) the faithful made their way to Nostell Priory a garden party in the wooly wilds of a country estate in West Yorkshire. It was the first time the Damned had played without the Captain & I've never seen so many stalls selling hallucinogenics so openly, with advertising placards if y'please!  If I remember rightly Chelsea were playing songs from their (in my eyes) classic album 'Original sinners'.
 Now this is where things start to get a little sketchy, as my mind was somewhat altered. (I think somebody put something in my drink). If someone could verify this I would be eternally grateful, but I am quite certain that this was the only time I actually saw Chelsea twice in one day. Once on the large stage & once later on in a large tent when everything was over, One thing I do recall is making the short journey home with eight others crammed into a mini. Great days!

 How great then, that the Chelsea of today holds steady harbour for two of the most illustrious guitarists from Chelsea past, James Stevenson & Nic Austin, Ably assisted by Lee Morrell on drums & the ever present Matt Sargent on bass. Fronted of course by the biological phenomenon that is Gene October! How the hell does he stay looking so bloody young, fit & healthy? Hell the guy's almost as pretty as me!
 As it's been a year or three since I last saw 'em, it was deemed rude to refuse to not take in at least a handful of these shows! The games room of the Leeds Brudenell being the first port of call.

In the darkest & dingiest of backrooms, with the most meagre of back curtain lights to assist your humble snapper, they plucked assorted classics  (of which there is a wealth) from their vast back catalogue. Nic Austin is still a total livewire, rarely stopping for a breath. Gordon Bennett! these cats have not aged in decades. Chelsea didn't exactly roll back the years, they played it like they've always played it; with the same amount of swagger & style with which we can only be thankful!  
  It was almost like torture having to wait a full fortnight before seeing them again at the Georgian theatre in Stockton. Seventy miles & a straight one hour drive was far better than I anticipated. Even the bread knife thought they were pretty damn hot (& that's sayin' summat!). A grand old venue, a near as damn it full house & another faultless performance from those fine Chelsea fellows left us with one more show in our itinerary; the tiny upstairs room at The Hop in Wakefield, the town where I first saw them all those countless (too many to mention) years ago.

The Mrs thought she'd come along again, jeez this band must be doing something right! Along with my old mate & partner in grime 'Keef  Howard' we made it to the bar at The Hop & immediately indulged ourselves in thick, treacle like black stout. Hey, they didn't have any Guinness!!!
 After many a 'tete a tentacle' with old friends who've been watching this band as long as I have, 'twas time for our final Chelsea show of this tour & fifty minutes later, we were left highly delighted (as if there was ever going to be any doubt). 
 As long as I live I will never tire of hearing the opening sequence to 'no flowers', or the build up to the crescendo in urban kids'. They just don't make bands like this anymore & let me tell you, there's something kinda heartwarming about the fact that somewhere out there; on a balmy spring eve, in a packed & sweaty club, Chelsea can still be found putting heart & soul into what they do best. Why, it giveth thee a proper warm glow & no mistake!

Just a brief note to end this 'ere bloggery caper. 
 Chelsea are not a band to rest on their laurels & rely on churning out the old classics to numptys who turn up to gigs just wanting to hear that one song. They are indeed still a creative force in the songwriting & recording stakes. At this very moment they are in the midst of recording their umpteenth studio album. This dear reader is where you could become a 'Chelsea angel' & assist in the studio costs for this eagerly awaited opus. For just a few groats or even a handful of sheckles you can have your name on the sleeve, get a signed album, why if you are feeling flush you can even become involved in the recording process & have a night out on the lash with Chelsea! For those among you who are interested, the link is right here, just copy & paste...........

It's good to be back my dears.