Friday nights are made for partying after a long hard week at work and boy was this Friday night one hell of a party! It may have been a cold and blustery night on the Kent coast but inside this superb little venue these three bands made sure there was no need for any heating as they pumped out a night of raucous rock and roll!
With it’s standing only capacity of 280, the Booking Hall is one of Kent’s newest live music venues. It is located in a former train station near to Dover port and is an intimate no frills establishment. A bar, a stage and some toilets is what you get and all you need. This is a venue for live music fans and the quality of the bands they are putting on suggests they have a successful time ahead. I for one, wish them luck.
Tonight’s three band line up was certainly one that got my attention as soon as it was announced, not least because it gave me a chance to witness the fabulous Massive Wagons up close and personal and not too far from home and I had heard nothing but good reports about Brighton based rockers The Rocket Dolls and was fascinated to see if they would live up to expectation. I have to confess that the Naked Six were new to me and I had not had a chance to listen to any of their material before the night so I was going in blind as such.
Anyway, I needn’t have had any worries as the Naked Six kicked the evenings proceedings off with a blistering 30 minute set that was so fast and frantic that their 9 songs were done in what really did seem like a flash. Formed in Yorkshire in 2015, the now Manchester based 3 piece play fast paced alternative rock, that definitely has a proper punk attitude to it mixed in with some elements of grunge and schizoid blues. This exciting, energetic bunch of lads are Seb Byford on vocals and guitar, Tom Witts on drums and percussion and his cousin Callum Witts on Bass.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EddkY6YoodM&w=560&h=315]
They certainly hit the stage running and from the off I couldn’t take my eyes off Byford, their enigmatic frontman. Resplendent in bowler hat, striped top (bit like those ones prisoners war in old movies), baggy trousers and Doc Martins he did not stop moving move from the start to the end of their set. To the other side of the stage was Callum Witts who along with Tom, sat front and center on the drums were keeping a superbly tight rhythm which allowed Byford freedom to jump, dance and throw himself to the floor with energy that most of the crowd would have been jealous of. Starting with Writings on the Wall, they then ran through a set that didn’t let you catch your breath for one minute. Split, Poison Apple, 21st Century Brawl and Grapevine Telegraph built the set superbly as the band entertained the crowd with their grungy, punky, blues to great effect. Mid set, drummer Tom, shed his t-shirt and gave the ladies in the audience something to look at as he smashed away at his kit with a decent sweaty six-pack on show. Gimme Something, Sticky Gum, Peace by the Pistol and Song of the City brought their set to a close before the band took their bows and left the stage with the same energy as they hit it. I found their set
thoroughly entertaining, the energy was phenomenal and their grungy, punky sound just really grabbed you by the balls. It really set the pace for the rest of the night.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XozaV8352U&w=560&h=315]
The Rocket Dolls describe themselves as a post grunge riff rock band with their influences including such luminaries as Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, Kings X, Mastadon, Nine Inch Nails and more along with some country and blues. The line up is Nikki Smash on Guitar and Vocals, Benji Knopfler on Drums and Joe Constable on Bass.
Tonight we got a mixture of new and old from the Rocket Dolls as they played 4 brand new songs for the first time anywhere and 3 of the best tracks from their latest album DeadHead. What was evident from the start was how tight they are as a unit. Nikki Smash is a commanding presence on stage as he lets rip with
his angst fuelled vocals whilst delivering some powerful but catchy riffs on the guitar. That rhythm section of Knopfler and Constable are equally formidable with heavy chunky bass lines and powerhouse drumming that provides the backbeat to their live performance.
They started their set off with three of the four new tracks, Enthusiasm & Fames, The Clearlight of Self Hatred and The Grip. Straight away the energy and performance grabbed me and pulled me in, and the response they got from the crowd suggested I was not the only one. After one, maybe two songs, I looked at my mate and we both nodded at each other in appreciation of how good a start this was. The vocal delivery, the musicianship and the emotion were just compelling to watch and listen to as the band tore into their set of heavy guitar laden post grunge rock.
Next up were None of This is Right and Stop the Deadmen Crying from their second album DeadHead before the final new track of the night, The Art of Disconnect. The new material is superb live and should make for another great album from The Rocket Dolls, which they were heading into the studio to work on, on the Saturday morning. Finishing their set with the album’s title track was just superb. It really gave the set a big finish with the tracks time changes, crashing drums and big riffs, all built for more of those angst fuelled vocals from Smash which just draw you in as you somehow feel the pain he is singing about yourself.
I asked myself at the start of the night if the Rocket Dolls were going to live up to what I had read and been told about them and the only answer I can give is yes….and then some more! The quality of the new songs on offer tonight lead me to believe that we are in for a real treat when that new album is released and bigger venues are definitely heading the way of the Rocket Dolls.
All of a sudden it was time for the headline act. The pace of the night so far had been fast and knowing the Massive Wagons there was not going to be any slowing down and boy was I right. After 10 years and 4 albums the line up of Baz Mills on Vocals, Adam Thistlewaite on guitar, Stevie Holl on rhythm guitar, Adam Bowskill on Bass and Alex Thistlewaite on drums came thundering on to the stage like men charged with catching a runaway train heading straight into the nearby port!
What lay ahead was about 70-75 minutes of balls out, head’s to the floor, anthemic rock n roll not designed for the faint hearted. As the lights dimmed and the guitar
started playing the intro to Tokyo my excitement levels went up, the crowd roared and then boom, we were off! Baz hit the stage like a tornado, twirling his mike stand, twisting, spinning, jumping up and down, I am not sure how he kept his bowler hat on for so long. From Tokyo we went straight into the fast and furious Nails, a real fists in the air rocker that is just superb from the minute you hear that guitar and drum intro. What an incredible rhythm section the Wagons have, Bowz Bowskill and Alex Thistlewaite are so tight but powerful it is impressive to watch and they drive the songs with such force. The crowd were just lapping this up and the band looked like they were having so much fun.
Since last years release of Full Nelson the bands wave has been getting bigger and bigger, they have played a host of UK festivals on the back of the success of that album and have become not only an energetic and fun band to watch but also a very tight one that enjoy being on stage together. There is definitely something special about seeing them live, they are electrifying, exhilarating and just plain old captivating. You can’t take your eyes off frontman Baz Mills who covers every inch of the stage like a Jack Rabbit on speed, constantly twirling his mic stand and windmilling and somehow not missing a note, or hitting anybody.
Next up was Billy Balloonhead, a real headbanger of a tune that just continued the tempestuous start to the set before an ever so slight drop off in pace for The Ballad of Vernon Hayes. Massive Wagons are not all about one man though, the guitars of Adam Thistlewaite and Stevie Holl play a huge part in creating the handclapping, fist pumping, headbanging anthems that are on offer and that is so evident in the chunky guitar intro to the next song on the list, Hate Me and then Hero which is a real fast paced rocker with a dirty bluesy feel to it.
Catchy choruses, great riffs, hook laden anthems, is what Massive Wagons are about and the supercharged Shit Sweat Death and Ratio which were the next songs up, have these in abundance. The crowd are just lapping this up! Singing, dancing, clapping and loving every minute of this sweat soaked performance.
At one point, a hardened rocker in his battle jacket gets to the front, phone in hand to get a selfie with the band behind him and Baz gives him just what he wants as he puts one foot on the guys shoulder and gets right in the photo himself! He then gets another with Baz looking over his shoulder, middle finger aloft…..memories forever and a great piece of interaction.
The simplistic, slower Northern Boy is our next offering and the guitar solo during this song was just in my opinion fabulous. In it Together followed before the Rick Parfitt tribute track Halleleuyah Back to the Stack brings the set to a close. The band cite fames British Acts such as Status Quo, UFO, Rainbow and Slade as their influences so it is no wonder they wrote such a barnstorming tribute to the late great Parfitt. A fabulous way to bring the set to an end.
It wasn’t long though before they were back on the stage, for a three song encore that could not fail to please and ensure the crowd left happy after a night of great music with a great atmosphere. Red Dress was up first with it’s chunky guitar riff sending the crowd wild before the Social Media inspired sing-a-long China Plates ensured everybody had drawn on all their energy reserves to keep the party going.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IzGWKjGf_k&w=560&h=315]
So finally, we had reached that point, the last song of the set and if the 13 tracks that had gone before were not enough, this was the finale of all finale’s, it was going to be Fee Fi Fo Fum, one of my favourite tracks. What a way to bring an end to this 70 odd minutes. I still can’t work out how Bazz was still singing and moving after the energy he had put into that performance but he mustered one last roll call and the whole building, as one joined him in singing this cracking little anthem and draw the night to a close and, what a night it was.
If you like your music full of hooks, riffs and catchy choruses with meaty bass lines, hard hitting drums and great vocals then go see the Massive Wagons, you will not be disappointed. I made my journey home, still singing, a sure sign I had had a great night.
Review by Darren Smith for metalplanetmusic