Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Down on its luck in recent times Bridgwater has a proud identity but equally chequered past; many of the industries upon which this Somerset town was founded lie dormant and are but ghosts of the past.
A resurgence is, however, underway with the construction of the new Hinkley Point reactor bringing in much needed drive to the local and regional economy.
The well-travelled former politician Michael Portillo once described the town as ‘romantic’ in what must have been a haze of mild confusion. Indeed, the famed poet Coleridge wrote ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ in nearby Nether Stowey and counted fellow poet Wordsworth as a neighbour but Bridgwater romantic? In fact, who am I to argue? Many names have been applied to this one-time bustling river port, but this is one that will forever raise a wry smile.
There is a re-energising of sorts occurring on the edge of the town centre, the epicentre of which is the renown Cobblestones venue which is fast cementing itself as a musical hub for the town attracting national and international touring acts across the spectrum whilst providing opportunities for local and regional outfits.
This pleasant summery May evening is a perfect example of this with Torquay based alt-rockers Pylon Poets and punchy Bristolian trio Deep Sea Thieves supporting hard rocking American outfit The L.A. Maybe. It’s a first tour this side of the Atlantic for these Carolina lads and it has been going well with the imagination of the British fanbase being well and truly awakened. Several dates have earnt deserved praise: amongst them a barnstorming performance at the Call Of The Wild festival a couple of days prior.
The challenging task of opening the evening falls to Pylon Poets; instantly likeable this triumvirate is swiftly into the fray. Second track ‘I Wonder’ catches the ear with its nod to Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’ that is given the added twist of 80s darkened hues of such luminaries as The Cure. In fact, someone in the crowd is equally moved as I and calls out “That was tight as fuck!” as the closing riffs fade.
Brand new song ‘Masquerade’ is given a first airing and with its touches of Iron Maiden it’s a number that would lend itself so very well to twin lead six-string. The band’s wide-ranging influences are splattered across their 30-minute set in multi-coloured hues with The White Stripes crossing paths with Franz Ferdinand in the cyclic riffage of ‘Take Me’ before a gothic Midnight Oil is unleashed in the transient form of 2020 release ‘Rise and Call’.
With resounding basslines and growling guitar alongside heavy beats there is an intensity at work; such is the devilment afoot that a wire snaps on the snare drum. A replacement is kindly offered by Deep Sea Thieves and the Riveria rockers are back on course with a surprisingly good cover of Madonna’s smash-hit ‘Papa Don’t Preach.’ Slowed down and, naturally, heavied up we all sing along; the lyrics are there in the psyche.
Backing tracks have been utilised to advantageous effect, none more so than in the intro of set-closer ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ adding a sparkle to the intro before warping into a delicious gritty alt-rocker.
Bristolian three-piece Deep Sea Thieves grasp hold of the baton handed to them by their Devonian peers and fully wind the throttle back for a supercharged 35 minutes of darkened riffing. The shadowy tones of set opener ‘Wasting Time’ have a punked up Cult edge to them; the claws set about getting a grip of their prey with the contagious chorus intent upon earworm status.
The Cobblestone’s reputation is burgeoning, their vocalist / guitarist effuses “It’s our first time in the Cobblestones. Heard so much about it!” before rampaging onwards with feisty rocker ‘I Am.’ A fiery angst rages. The trio’s penchant for melding the gothic side of 80s rock with a more straightforward punk edge are highlighted in ‘Machines’.
There’s time for some banter between both support acts referencing Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Little Sister’ which both incorporate into their set on occasion, and one had rocked out to in their sound check earlier on. I cannot escape hitting up on an undercurrent that is redolent of The Cult with the neatly fuzzed up ‘State Of Mind.’ It’s something the band confess, to me later, that isn’t a deliberate thing but they’re certainly not unhappy with.
New track ‘Black Flowers’ showers us with its darkened grooves; introducing it the vocalist states “We’ve barely played it, we’re gonna fuck it up!” Something the bassist Olivia agrees with a bright “Yes, we are!” Didn’t seem that way from where I was stood, however. The curiously titled ‘Lunic IX’ follows with punked up chopping riffage.
Circling about on the wing the cowled guardians track the ebbing lifeforces; minions in gainful employment as they ‘Dance With The Reaper’ adumbrating the edgy furrow this track ploughs. Both bands have taken the opportunity to play new tracks and this Bristol three-piece finish with the maelstrom that is ‘Hurricane.’ Crashing cymbals are joined by a rumbling bass before the spiky guitar flashes across the stage; all rather appropriate.
Two new-to-us bands have entertained us but now for the main course and it’s phenomenal to see international touring outfits heading to our shores in increasing numbers. What was a just a trickle merely a few months ago is steadily increasing in numbers with the onset of festival season. Call Of The Wild saw a good few Scandinavian acts along with several Stateside outfits tearing up their stages across the weekend.
Amongst them were the much-vaunted The L.A. Maybe who have headed on in from their North Carolina headquarter of Charlotte. Making the most of their time on this side of the ‘Pond’ they have slotted in several dates and have gone down an absolute storm with their delectable cocktail blend of good ol’ Southern charm with the brash sleaziness of California glam. There’s a twist of funk and even a touch of blues-edged country chucked in for good measure. Whilst this quintet ensure that they proudly wear their influences upon their collective sleeve it’s their own distinctive sound that they are striving rigorously to achieve.
Vocalist Goliath Furr roars “Let’s go!” as he and his musical brethren take to the stage. Thundering hooves are heard across the plain as lead guitarist Dallas Dwight’s intricate six-stringing brings in the outright rocker ‘Mr. Danger.’ Frontman Goliath is aptly named, he’s an absolute bear of a man who packs a heavyweight strike with his gravelly edged yet crystal-clear vocals. There’s AC/DC riffs aplenty with Rahsaan Lacey’s six (yes six!) bass strings producing an awesome output that quakes the walls in unison with drummer Ryan Fosnow’s hammer blows.
Sashaying into the swaggering ‘She’s Reckless’ The L.A. Maybe delightfully alloy the fury of primetime Guns n’ Roses and Motley Crue whilst underpinning the whole damn glory with a tasty foundation of Eagles crossed with Poison.
It sounds unlikely but these guys pull it off with ridiculous ease and it’s bloody infectious! Opening with a couple of balls-out backs-to-the-wall rollickingly riotous numbers the Carolina quintet slip down a couple of gears to hit a comfortable cruising velocity with Goliath announcing, “This one’s gonna give you a ‘Piece of Mind’!” This downright Southern groove is steeped in Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes and The Allman Brothers with a highway trucking beat that carries you across those expansive lands.
Goliath’s multi-faceted sweet-as-you-like vocals take us to an escapism; the band’s original singer he parted ways prior to the recording of 2021’s debut album ‘Dirty Damn Tricks’ but re-joined the ranks following the departure of his replacement a few months later. Many of these tracks, recorded so well on the album, were initially sung by Goliath so come across so well in the live arena.
I’m sure I’m not alone in aching to hear new recorded material. Dallas and his six-string partner-in-crime Drizzle Silvera trade solos out front whilst Goliath appreciates their efforts crowd side. Rushing back to the stage proclaiming “See I don’t want to be late!” as they charge into new track ‘Down The Fight.’ The hype surrounding this band is thoroughly deserved and this sumptuous riffer with its hard driving chuggage clearly signifies to all herein this evening that this is a band going places!
No thrills simply good honest rock n’ roll ‘Take Me Away’ is the precursor to a second brand new track ‘Long Road.’ Feeling like a long-lost friend this track wraps a warm fireside blanket around all. There’re harmonies on a par with Journey as Axel Rose et al are taken down into the southlands. It’s very warmly received with the gathered ensemble hitting on it right away. Goliath observes “Fuck yeah! I felt the same way when I first heard it.
The utterly tubthumping ‘Fake’ – originally off a since-deleted EP that morphed into last year’s long-playing release – sees the five-piece in full flow before Goliath stops the song to enquire “Do you guys smell weed in here? Just a little bit?” before his compatriots regain track and hit the rocking outro. With its Van Halen merged with AC/DC guitaring ‘Up Next To Year’ is a quintessential heads down track. Goliath’s Boston-esque vocals bring a Mid-West vibe to proceedings.
A spontaneous burst of ‘Freebird’ playfully teases The Cobblestones before Def Leppard’s ‘Photograph’ and Maiden’s ‘Trooper’ are given similar treatment before our American friends – for this is what they have become in the brief time they have been on stage – rip right into the steam hammer that is ‘Sucker Punch.’ A V12 dragster, all gleaming chrome and maxed out revs, fires out from the Underworld. Souped up ZZ Top licks and beats coupled with a rapidly jabbing chorus have heads nodding as Motley Crue are wholeheartedly invited to the party.
‘When I’m Gone’ – my personal favourite off ‘Dirty Damn Tricks’ – is dedicated to those who taken their lives. “We’ve lost a lot of good people” muses Goliath. This is an epic anthem, make no bones about it, with a wholesome Crowes Southern homelands vibrancy. This could well be The L.A. Maybe’s ‘November Rain’ moment. Crowd participation is necessary with the band getting on a funky groove for ‘Oh Sugar’ and its summery feelgood bluesy-edged charms. A time-honoured crowd pleaser and set-closer for sure!
There’s time for one more even though Goliath responds to the cries for more with the astute reply “We ain’t got anymore!” before enquiring “Do you know where the fuck you are?” Leading into a furiously brilliant rendition of the GnR classic ‘Welcome To The Jungle.’ A barnstorming finale that brings down the Cobblestones’ roof with one heck of a crash!
If you were fortunate to catch The L.A. Maybe in action this time around you will know what a force live these guys are and will be counting down the days until their return! If not, I can safely say with hand on heart that you will be joining us in the countdown! Alongside the likes of The Mercury Riots and Kickin’ Valentina these guys are at the vanguard of the next wave of US rock to hit these shores.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM