Review by Pete Finn for MPM
It’s the relatively short trip to Nottingham tonight, for my partner in crime MPM Tog Manny and myself. It’s not the usual haunts of Rock City or The Rescue Rooms, but arguably one of the best named venues on the circuit, ‘Percy Picklebackers Dive Bar’ situated in the Lace Market area of Nottingham.
The Dust Coda have invited These Wicked Rivers and The Hot Damn! to join them on this Sold-Out date. So, three bands tonight, a very welcome early Christmas Present.
On arrival we find the gig is upstairs, I smile at the irony of being upstairs in a ‘Dive Bar’, but the description above is spot on. We’re let in early enough to catch the end of the sound checks, which is always nice to experience. There’s already a good queue at the merch, and the crowd are wearing an even mix of T-shirts representing the bands playing tonight.
These Wicked Rivers consists of John Hartwell (Lead vocals/Rhythm guitar), Arran Day (Lead Guitar), Sam Williams (bass) and Dan Southall (drums) Rich Wilson -Keys & Backing Vocals , Formed in February 2014 and first appearing on the stage in October of the same year, this Derby quartet has a brand of modern rock, influenced by the likes of Black Stone Cherry and Clutch.
I’d not seen TWR live before, but I have bought both of their EP’s, I and II, also their debut album ‘Eden’ that was released last summer, an excellent album that is worth asking Santa for, if you don’t already own a copy.
After a quick blast down Brian Clough Way, These Wicked Rivers take to the stage and open with ‘Tea Leaves’ a short instrumental version, with a Bluegrass feel. Without stopping next is ‘Shine On’ a bluesy come southern track with a bit of Jimi Hendrix, Arran Day’s bright guitar including a squealing mid-point solo and Dan Southall’s balanced drumming, punctuated with Hartwell’s vocal makes you want this song to keep going.
From their album ‘Eden’ we’re treated to ‘Money’, this was a real crashing drums driven track, with Dan Southall’s drum talents standing out through the whole track. ‘When the War Is Won’ a track from their second EP, starts with a haunting guitar, a slow vocal, it’s moody, there is a s fine Arran Day solo that changes the tempo and Sam Williams forceful bass detonates an explosive finish.
‘Evergreen’ a quicker paced track, this track has a more prominent vocal, it’s lifted to the forefront by a strong Williams bass line and cemented in place by Day’s guitar breaks. ‘Testify’, has Rich Wilson on harmonica beginning this one, accompanied by Southall’s hard-hitting drumbeat, strong power riffs, give this a Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine atmosphere. I loved it, and judging by the rest of the crowd, they did too.
John Hartwell announces their final track of the set, ‘Don’t Pray For Me’, it begins with church style organ, and calming vocal which lulls us into a false sense of security, before the tone changes to a full on classic rock track maybe a bit UFO, including a Schenker-esque solo, double-tap bass drum and piano finish.
I’ve really enjoyed watching and listening to These Wicked Rivers, and will definitely see them again in 2022, and so should you.
Setlist: Tea Leaves; Shine On; Money; When the War Is Won; Evergreen; Testify; Don’t Pray for Me
Formed just over a year ago, The Hot Damn! consist of former Amorettes singer/guitarist Gill Montgomery and Tequila Mockingbyrd drummer Josie O’Toole, who joined forces when the two bands separated, but continued to fulfil both bands performance commitments. They were joined on stage by guitarist Laurie Buchanan, who has remained with them. The ‘new’ addition is Lzi Hayes on bass, who wasn’t in either band. I know it’s as ‘clear as mud’, I tried my best.
The ladies take to the stage through the audience, like a boxer’s crowd walk to the ring, with Laurie wearing a festive red jacket. The first track is ‘Catch Me If You Can’ which has a solid riff and Gill adds her effective vocal to Lzi’s resonant bass. This has the front row dancing from the off. The Tequila Mockingbyrd track ‘Enjoy the Ride’, starts after a quick mic check for Laurie, a punk riff and angry vocals work with Josie O’Toole’s clipped drums.
Gill asks the crowd if they’ve brought their singing voices, ‘I Didn’t Like You Anyway’ released this weekend, is a song about being with someone then finding out he’s a ‘Dickhead’. A great guitar riff intro, then Josie powers in and with clever vocal harmonies this has all the qualities of a thoughtfully constructed song. This offering is currently up for Record of the Week. ‘Good Time’ another track from TM, tub-thumper Josie winds this one up, then Laurie releases all the tension with a great solo.
Gill tells us that the next track is going to utilise the huge glitter ball and the back of the room. It’s ‘Dance Around’ a bouncy track reminded me a bit of summer, with a Thin Lizzy cross Transvision Vamp vibe, a great sounding song that made it onto NWOCR Volume One. This gives the crowd a chance to exercise their vocal cords with some “I love it” chants.
The set closer from The Hot Damn! is The Amorettes classic, ‘Everything I learned, I learned From Rock ‘n’ Roll’. This was a great choice to finish their show and had the crowd take over the vocals
The Hot Damn! are no ‘Damsels in distress’, these are four fine musicians who know exactly what they want, and know what to do, to get it. Writing good songs and coupling them with great shows like tonight, it won’t be too long before they achieve it. It was damn good.
Setlist: Catch Me If You Can; Enjoy the Ride; I Didn’t Like You Anyway; Good Time; Dance Around; Everything I Learned.
The Dust Coda are one of the early members of the New Wave of Classic Rock genre, coming from London they are John Drake (vocals/rhythm guitar), Adam Mackie (lead guitar), Scott Miller (drums) and Tony Ho (bass). Tonight, is gig number four, on their eight-date headline tour promoting their brilliant second album, and their first with Earache Records ‘Mojo Skyline’.
Searching for a bit of The Dust Coda trivia, I find out that the ‘Mojo Skyline’ album sleeve was designed by Nick Dwyer, the artist responsible for the Beavertown Brewery beer labels. From a personal point of view ‘Mojo Skyline’ is in my Top 10 Albums for 2021.
The anticipation and excitement is off the scale as screeching feedback announces the arrival of The Dust Coda to the stage. Without delay it’s ‘Jimmy 2 Times’, a title taken from a character in ‘The Goodfellas’, who says everything twice. A dirty sounding guitar intro is picked up by Miller’s steady drum beat, and carried to the dance floor. This is a proper toe-tapper. Mackie’s squealing guitar break reminds you this is a real rock song too, a clever rock song. I really enjoyed it, I really enjoyed it.
Next ‘Demon’, the opening track on MS, starts with a punchy riff and pounding drum beat, John Drake’s vocal during the verses matches the same speed of a horseracing commentator as the horses approach the line, clear and controlled, mid track there is a Tony Ho bass riff that I’m sure is shaking the glasses along the bar, this band are tight.
‘Dream Alight’, this is a slower gentle number, it gives John Drake the opportunity to show the range and variation of his voice. Some excellent musicianship and vocal filled with emotion and passion, it has a mid-section jam that turns really heavy. You start thinking of Led Zeppelin, but this isn’t a Led Zeppelin copy, this is very much a Dust Coda track, and a brilliant one to boot.
John Drake wants us to “Sing it” and join in with ‘Breakdown’, the second release from ‘Mojo Skyline’, Adam Mackie introduces this track with a riff that pulls you in straight away, a slower lyric from Drake it’s almost hypnotic, a track that has control and purpose, the vocals and instruments are almost trading blows, one then the other until Mackie speeds things up and leads us to a frenzied finish.
“Are you warmed up?” asks Drake, “Too right” the place is on fire. ‘Sweet Love’, Adam Mackie’s thoughtful introduction eases you into this ballad, Drake’s vocal is assuring and comforting, the rings on his fingers shining like a knuckleduster as he clenches his microphone. Ho and Miller’s considerate accompaniment makes you close your eyes and put your total trust in the band, knowing that they will take care of you. Amazing.
It’s an unbroken switch into ‘All I Got’ from the 2017 self-titled first album, a throbbing bass and drum bursts, fire this track forward until mid-way, when Drake slows things down with a mellow vocal, but the tranquillity is short lived before the crushing finish. “We occasionally/never do a cover” states Drake before the band start ‘Call Me’, released by Blondie in February 1980, now this is a brilliant cover, with The Dust Coda sound all over it. For me it is one of those ‘Yin and Yang’ events, opposite or contrary forces that are interconnected and complement each other, the reason being, I loved hearing it and enjoyed it, but I also hated it, because one of their own, awesome songs was sacrificed for the slot in the set.
‘Sun Goes Down’ has The Dust Coda in a relaxed mood, a measured and precise sound, where every note fits perfectly. The Scott Miller drum volley initiates a brief tempo change before Adam Mackie gives it both barrels. ‘I’ve Been Waiting’, think Queen ‘The Works’ or ‘Hot Space’ electro sounding background, a composed vocal and inventive lead break with Ho’s seismic bass. The crowd are clapping along. A very intelligent and slick track. John Drake comments about his warm and fizzy beer.
Scott Miller’s drumsticks clap this one in, it’s ‘Rolling’, a slower intro, a clear and almost soothing vocal, that pauses, then shakes all your senses as it briefly explodes in your eardrums. The guitar riffs and thumping drums lead to a screaming vocal, this is a classic rock track at its best. The Adam Mackie guitar solo is brilliant. John is ready for another beer. Again, it’s Miller’s delicate drum intro that sets the tone for ‘Bourbon Pouring. A southern/blues sounding song, gentle guitars and relaxing vocal, you just want to close your eyes and enjoy the moment. If it wasn’t so packed in here, I’d be off to the bar to get a Jack Daniels and raise it in appreciation to The Dust Coda.
‘Down in The Valley’ taken from the debut album, this is a highly charged, down and dirty rock ‘n’ roll track. Fast paced with spicy riffs, hammering drums and bass. JD holds a note on his guitar like a siren wails, then the band have a jam, leading to a short Tony Ho bass solo and a snippet of The Doors ‘LA Woman’, this track is made for you to spill your beer to.
‘Best Believe It’, high tempo, the undercurrent beat of Ho and Miller drags you along, you pause mid-track to gather your breath, then the Drake/Mackie vocal and guitar pulls you back under, spins you around then spits you out. A suitable term to describe it, would be “The Dust Coda has just ripped Nottingham a new one”.
‘Limbo Man’, the first track released as a single prior to the release of ‘Mojo Skyline’, short and direct riffs, and matching vocal. This is high speed Rock ‘n’ Roll at its best, a real driving song. Adam Mackie delivers a real tyre screeching solo to close the track out, played in some parts with his guitar over his shoulder and behind his head. In what feels like the blink of an eye the set has finished, an amazing performance, and to quote Jimmy 2 Times again, it was “Bloody brilliant, Bloody brilliant”.
The Dust Coda have a few festivals lined up for 2022, including a big set at the Rockin’ The Bowl Festival in September 2022. Make it a New Year Resolution to see these guys, you will not be disappointed.
This has been a cracking evening, with three fabulous bands, in a great venue, a genuine Christmas Special.
Setlist: Jimmy 2 Times; Demon; Dream Alight; Breakdown; Sweet Love; All I Got; Call Me; Sun Goes Down; I’ve Been Waiting; Rolling; Bourbon Pouring; Down in The Valley; Best Believe It; Limbo Man.
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM