Hereford Rocks The Left Bank 5th March 2016
Some day’s music this was, with it starting early afternoon and running right through to just short of midnight. As is everyday life, I had “stuff” to do during the day, but arrived just as the Linerunners kicked off their set.
Linerunners are fronted by Toby Armitage along with co-vocalist Lotty Milward-Brookes and they are quite a mix. Firstly, Linerunners have a sort of post-punk vibe about them, a touch of Joy Division and a smattering of Echo & the Bunnymen at times. So the vocal style won’t come as a surprise if you are familiar with that early 80s scene. Toby has a deep moody sound, and Lotty coasts with a smooth sound that contrasts nicely.
They kicked off with ‘Lines Running Through’, quickly followed by ‘Children’ which kind of barks at you (in a good way), Nick Betts bass line adding that Peter Hook feel to their sound. Toby is quite a character, he doesn’t move from the mic stand, all the action comes from his head as he rolls it, shakes it and generally looks quite the mad, intense, dangerously intellectual musician. He’s actually none of those off stage, however I bought him a drink afterwards, just in case…….wait….he is intellectual. Am I safe?
They played a favourite of mine, ‘Fat Sam’, a pretty laid back song with a nice layer of guitar from Steve Davies as the tune builds up and cools down and perfectly displays Toby’s grumpy vocals. You should check them out, they are one of those bands you feel you have to watch as they play, just don’t cross Toby!
Next up was Willow Robinson, a solo artist, just him and his guitar, so a strange direction for the lineup to go given it was a “Rock” night, but Willow has pedigree and presence on stage so although there was a brief thought in my head that his style would break the night’s momentum, I think he added to it. And anyone who plays a gold Gibson Les Paul is fine by me!
Leominster boys Raptor leapt on to the stage following Willow’s set and well…set about making the place rock. They play a rock/metal/blues mix with a psychedelic feel to it.
Their debut EP came out this time last year and was very well received, so it made sense for them to be here. In contrast to Linerunners, these boys, Kurt the guitarist/ singer in particular don’t keep still. Sickeningly active, in fact, they raced through their list, which included covers of Led Zeps ‘Dazed and Confused’ and Black Sabbath’s ‘Fairies Wear Boots’. Kurt is a great rock Blues guitarist, he knocks the riffs out effortlessly and thankfully didn’t try to be Robert Plant during the Zeppelin tune. They even managed to throw in a new tune, ‘Kaleidoscope’.
Kurt and Adam, the drummer, are brothers and it was Adam’s birthday, so it made sense to bring him a cake on stage – we the crowd were rubbish at singing Happy Birthday, but all the same, it would have been polite for Raptor to have asked us for an encore, surely!
The Troy Redfern Band
Shrugging my disappointment off, I waited for last but one act, the Troy Redfern Band. They played the city only a few weeks before (see our review ) and they put on another great set of their heavy rock Blues, mixing original material like ‘Salvation’, with covers, including Muddy Waters’ ‘I just wanna make love to you’ and finishing off with John Lee Hooker’s ‘Bad Man Blues’. The new line up is still settling down, but I like the energy it has brought to their set and they came into their own when Troy invited up Kurt from Raptor and Matt from Rocky Road to Ruin to join him in a version of Zappa’s ‘Willie the Pimp’. Troy gracefully let the guests take centre stage and filled in around them. Being a grumpy Punk, I’m not a fan of these jams – kind of guitarists’ masturbation time, but sometimes they work and in the context of this night of showcasing local Blues talent, I forced myself to mellow and enjoy it.
Don’t worry for me though. A fellow (very) old grump, my mate Dave was standing next to me, so I was able to draw inspiration from him and resume my grimace fairly swiftly before any unnecessary merriment broke out.
“How good must it be to be in a band with one of your idols? Adam doesn’t hold back in stating his admiration of Mick and his work – but then he also doesn’t hold back with the colostomy bag jokes at Mick’s expense, either”
Mick Ralph’s Blues Band
Finally, the moment the 200-ish crowd had waited for arrived and Mick Ralphs and his Blues Band took to the stage, opening with ‘I Don’t Care’. Now, we all know that local hero Mick Ralphs was in Mott The Hoople and Bad Company, two big, big acts from a while ago, and we all know that Ralphs was one of the main songwriters, but what is perhaps surprising given all that success is that he is very laid back and happy for the band to take the limelight. He still plays like I can only dream of (actually, I don’t dream about playing the guitar, I usually dream of losing a shoe and having to limp around, but you know, that’s probably not relevant).
They played ‘Too Bad’, a song that Bad Company managed to avoid playing live back in the day, but if you have so many classics, something has to give. Mick has a great band to work with him. To contrast his subtle approach, singer Adam Barron is a ball of action, more hair than you can shake a hairy stick at (sorry, blame the beer) and all of 40-ish years younger than Mick, who laughs off the hero worship going on. How good must it be to be in a band with one of your idols? Adam doesn’t hold back in stating his admiration of Mick and his work – but then he also doesn’t hold back with the colostomy bag jokes at Mick’s expense, either.
Of course they play the expected – ‘Feel Like Making Love’ and ‘Can’t Get Enough’, as well as, some covers: JP Lenoirs ‘Talk to Your Daughter’ (always good for a sing-along), they encored with ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ and threw in a cool version of Freddies King’s ‘Hide Away’ where Mick let rip with his Les Paul and showed just how good he is. But they also played some of the bands own newer numbers like ‘Should Know Better’ – something that appeals to me. Sometimes there’s too much respectful nodding towards the heritage of Blues and it doesn’t have to be that way does it? Not that this gig needed any anarchy – to be fair, people here were either too young to know about such things or too old to do anything about it, but it had enough energy to look after itself and to generate some good old dad dancing down the front. I was actually accused of tapping my foot, nay, even shaking my leg to this at one point – I’m not happy – I’m supposed to be allergic to Hippies – actually yes, that’s it, it was a nervous reaction – I wasn’t enjoying myself, honest!