Review by Pete Finn for MPM
It’s the night before Bonfire Night, MPM Tog Manny and myself are heading back to what feels like a second home, and Rock City.
During our drive we are treated to numerous firework displays and the red/orange glows of bonfires as the country celebrates Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. I have heard it said by some, that he was the last person with honorable intentions to enter that particular building too.
Manny and I are eagerly anticipating an explosive night at Rock City, where two firecracker bands in the form of Ugly Kid Joe and Massive Wagons are performing a co-headline show, which will see both bands perform with equal show production and set times. Also, on the bill tonight and opening the show is Chris Catalyst.
The timings this evening are tight, with doors at 18:30 and Chris Catalyst opening proceedings at 18:40, there’s a 22:00 curfew as the ‘kids’ are in after us for an ‘All-Nighter’. After a friendly chat with the door staff, we get our passes just in time, as we walk into the hall Chris Catalyst walks out onto the stage, there’s probably around 70 people who’ve made it inside in the 10 minutes, with most still outside.
Chris Catalyst, Yorkshireman, singer-songwriter and musician, is best known for his work with The Sisters of Mercy, Ugly Kid Joe, Ginger Wildheart, Terrorvision, The Professionals, amongst others and his own band, Eureka Machines, as well as his more recent solo career. Earlier this year Chris confirmed that he has been a ‘Nameless Ghoul’ who tours with the Swedish metal band Ghost. Catalyst has released four solo albums, his debut ‘Life Is Often Brilliant’ in 2017, with his David Bowie covers album ‘Waiting In The Sky’ released this year. He has called these dates the ‘Electric and Eclectic Tour.’
Chris Catalyst is stood in front of the microphone, flat cap and white guitar slung over his shoulder. He warmly greets those assembled before him and starts his set with ‘King of Everything’ from his ‘Kaleidoscopes’ album released during 2021. The jangly guitar and voice working well together. He says it’s great to be playing Rock City, before noticing Manny is the only Tog in the pit, he poses for him, including jumping off the drum riser behind.
He reminds us that buying the artists merch helps to keep them fed and on the road. He starts ‘Brainwaves’ by his band Eureka Machines, this had a dirtier sound, the now bigger crowd appreciating it. He dedicates the next track to Massive Wagons in recognition of the amazing success of their Number 6 album, it’s ‘Wake Me Up On Monday’ from the 2017 album ‘Life Is Often Brilliant’, it’s crisp lyrics and solid guitar have the crowd nodding along. As Manny leaves the pit, Chris catches his eye and they exchange fist bumps.
The heavier sounding ‘The Ride’ again from ‘Kaleidoscopes’ is next, Catalyst is working the crowd well, with a good choice of tracks and excellent banter in-between. His final track is taken from the new album ‘Waiting In The Sky’ it’s the classic ‘Ashes to Ashes’. Catalyst provides us with a great version with respect to the original. He thanks the Rock City crowd, who in return show their thanks with cheers and claps. Chris Catalyst gave a great performance, and like the crowd I enjoyed hearing something a bit different.
Setlist: King of Everything, Brainwaves, Wake Me Up On Monday, The Ride, Ashes to Ashes.
The crew have a quick 10-minute changeover, but most of it involves moving mic stands so it’s easily completed.
Founded in Lancaster during 2009, Massive Wagons have been one of the trail-blazers of the new genre aptly named The New Wave of Classic Rock. Building a reputation as a hard-working, hard-rocking and hard-gigging band and this ethic, along with original songs and high energy shows has helped create a massive loyal following. Since their debut album ‘Fire It Up’ released in 2012, Massive Wagons have gone on to release a further five albums, with the most recent being ‘Triggered’ just over a week ago at the end of October. I saw Massive Waggons here at Rock City last December, they were bursting out from the support shadow of The Darkness, almost a year later they are co-headlining a UK Tour. This following on from a summer which saw them give one of the performances of the festival at Download. Earlier this evening it’s announced in the press that their new album ‘Triggered’ has gone straight into the UK Album Charts at Number 6.
Massive Wagons are Baz Mills (vocals), Adam Thistlewaite (guitar), Alex Thistlewaite (drums), Adam ‘Bowzer’ Bouskill (bass) and Stevie Holl (guitar).
The stage is awash with blue lights and smoke, some of Manny’s favourite conditions…The floor is now full, there’s a funky Blues Brothers-esque track played over the PA as the band come out.
Baz leaps off the drum riser, twirling his mic stand and we’re off. ‘Pressure’ is taken from the 2020 release ‘House of Noise’, the intro lulls us into a false sense of security with its steady beat and accompanying riff. It then explodes, setting your senses on fire, rapid beats from Alex Thistlewaite, Bowzer’s pumping bass, crunching riffs and breaks from the guitars of Adam Thistlewaite and Stevie Holl, this is all amplified by Baz’s flamethrower lyric delivery and over the top stage presence antics. A brilliant start, met by huge cheers, Baz wants Rock City to “Make some fucking noise”, Rock City responds, Massive Wagons have just lit the fuse.
It’s the title track of the recently released ‘Triggered’ album next. It starts with a blues boogie style riff, then Baz’s rap like lyrics add real bounce. The Rock City crowd are up on their toes. Bowzer gives us a brief bass break before Adam Thistlewaite fires out a solo. Baz is pogoing across the stage. Quick beats and riffs guide the track out.
Alex Thistlewaite is hitting the cowbell, it’s the intro to ‘Bangin’ In Your Stereo’ from the 2020 album ‘House of Noise’. Alex’s pounding drum and Baz’s clever lyrics, this track has the Wagons fans playing their air guitars, middle fingers are raised in time with the lyrics. “Are you going to jump for us Nottingham?” cries Baz. Rock City is jumping. There’s a quick rap in the middle, then a wall of guitars. Great fun.
“This one is for Rick” shouts Baz, it’s the wonderful tribute to Status Quo’s Rick Parfitt, ‘Back To The Stack’, a crowd favourite. The guitars line up in Quo fashion. Plenty around the hall raise their glasses to Rick, Adam has his ‘V’ purring for the solo, as the track concludes the band raise their guitars and fists skywards.
Baz is front and centre, “The fact our record has reached number six, shows that rock music is back, thank you”, he continues, “The next track is about a bloke we all know”. It’s from the new album ‘Triggered’, and is the radio friendly titled ‘A.S.S.H.O.L.E.’ It starts with a wonderful riff, Baz’s lyrics quick, Alex Thistlewaite is pounding his kit, as the band chant ‘A.S.S.H.O.L.E.’ the Rock City crowd are singing along, they already know the words. Baz splits the crowd, his left are to sing the vowels, his right the consonants, and we have an A.S.S.H.O.L.E sing off, we enjoyed that a lot. I’ve seen a copy of the bands setlist, and it’s down as ‘Gazhole’, I wonder if that’s a clue…
Stevie Holl starts the intro, we continue with the fast paced ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’, from ‘Welcome To The World’ they instantly have the crowd jumping, Bowzer’s bass is shaking the room like giants’ footsteps on the roof, Baz is stood on a monitor, mic stand in the air, then points it at the crowd to sing along. Stevie has the crowd clapping. Jack and The Beanstalk lyrics, very fitting as we approach the Pantomime season.
Baz asks if there’s anyone in the crowd called Boris, before starting another track from the new album ‘Triggered’ this is ‘Germ’. The jangly guitar intro is met head on by Baz’s quick-fire lyrics. The lyrics are fun and clever, maybe not for the radio though. The sound is full and rich.
We’re straight into ‘Fuck the Haters’ from the new release. I heard this for the first time during Massive Wagons storming set at Download this year. Again, a track that’s unlikely to make Planet Rock’s playlist. Baz is chanting the lyrics, it’s hard and melodic at the same time. The Rock City crowd are singing along and raising their middle fingers in time.
From the ‘Full Nelson’ album we’re straight into ‘China Plates’ it’s about society’s obsession with Social Media, and how the various posts are interpreted differently. This is a high-octane track with intense lead breaks and thunderous drums from the Thistlewaite brothers, the end has Baz down on the crush barrier pointing at the crowd, “You, You, You” and giving ‘High Fives’. Its conclusion is welcomed by widespread approval. Rock City liked it.
Baz climbs back up on to the stage, “I’m knacked, let’s have some slower songs, these are from the new album.”
First, it’s ‘Please Stay Calm’ this has a real 80’s rock feel, the tempo increases through the song, there’s a great Stevie guitar hook. Baz shows what a wide range of vocal skills he possesses, Bowzer’s bass is tight as he controls the pace. Baz is demonstrating his high kicks.
Following on is ‘Skateboard’, Baz provides rapid lyrics, this is a real toe-tapper, impossible to stay still. Alex Thistlewaite’s drum bursts give great punctuation to the words. Baz is crouched over, cupping his mic as he sings, he then gets the Rock City crowd to bounce.
Baz looks down at his setlist, “Oh shit, it’s another fast one.” ‘Generation Prime’, again this track demonstrates the bands ability to create a clever track based on how we live in the world today. Baz’s lyrics are rapid, this is a fun track. Shrewd tempo changes have you nodding along, the Stevie solo gets the headbangers going. The song has hard rock sounds duetting with a reggae beat, brilliantly constructed. Baz cries, “Have anyone seen us before?”, the response is deafening, the band proceed to play a snippet of Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’, followed by Bob Marley’s ‘No woman, no cry’ as the outro.
“Let’s see you go fucking crazy”, demands Baz. The 2016 album ‘Welcome To The World’ provides ‘Ratio’. The slow hard-hitting beats carry Baz’s chanted words. Rock City is singing the chorus under Baz’s direction. This song has power running through it, driven by crunching riffs and a squealing lead break.
Baz thanks the crowd for buying their new record, then tells Rock City to start headbanging. The crowd is clapping as ‘Nails’ from ‘Welcome To The World’ starts. The riff intro grabs your attention straight away, the crowd start bouncing. Alex is powering out the beats, whilst Bowzer’s bass is stamping on your chest. Adam is stood on the drum riser; the solo sees him light up his Flying V guitar. Baz is now up on the monitor headbanging. This is high-energy stuff, the band build to a big finish.
Baz screams, “Rock and Roll is alive in Nottingham!”, the band line up across the stage and all start clapping, the final track is ‘In It Together’ the opening track from their album ‘House Of Noise’ a riff laden anthem, with clever and personal lyrics, we get to join in with the ‘Wo-ahs’. Baz is jumping around the stage, flicking his hair, he cries “We’re in it together Rock City.”
A superb end to a wonderful show. Rock City enjoyed that, in fact they enjoyed that a lot, as did I.
Setlist: Pressure, Triggered, Bangin in Your Stereo, Back to the Stack, A.S.S.H.O.L.E. Fee Fi Fo Fum, Germ, Fuck the Haters, China Plates, Please Stay Calm, Skateboard, Generation Prime, Ratio, Nails, In It Together.
Again, there are no house lights for the crews to swap the kit over making it a bit difficult, but these guys do it easily, albeit with torches in their mouths. I always wonder that if a show has Co-Headliners will some of the crowd leave after the first band. Looking around, and knowing Rock City’s reputation, no chance.
American rockers Ugly Kid Joe were formed in 1990 in Isla Vista, California. The band’s name parodies the name of glam metal band Pretty Boy Floyd.
Ugly Kid Joe have released five full-length albums, two compilation albums and two EPs. Their best-selling releases are 1991’s ‘As Ugly as They Wanna Be’ and ‘America’s Least Wanted’ released the following year, which were both certified Double Platinum. ‘As Ugly as They Wanna Be’ is notable for being the first EP to go platinum.
The band broke up in 1997 but announced a reunion in 2010 and has been together ever since. The line-up consists of founder members Whitfield Crane (lead vocals) and Klaus Eichstadt (guitars, backing vocals), with Cordell Crockett (bass, backing vocals), Mike Squires (guitars) and Cam Greenwood (drums, percussion). Cam is standing in for regular drummer Zac Morris. Cam has played with UKJ before and is normally behind the kit for Terrorvision. Mike is depping for Dave Fortman. Ugly Kid Joe have just released a new album their fifth, ‘Rad Wings of Destiny’ on 21 Oct 2022, their first since 2015.
The smoke machine fires up, there’s a flash from a torch at the side of the stage, the band walk out onto stage minus singer Whitfield Crane who follows on a few seconds later.
‘That Ain’t Livin’’ is the riff-tastic opening track from the new ‘Rad Wings of Destiny’ album. This is a stadium sound within the confines of Rock City, it’s immense. Whitfield Crane is growling out the words as he prowls the stage. Cordell Crockett is wearing sunglasses and spanking his bass. This has a touch of AC/DC about it, Klaus Eichstadt announces his arrival with a squealing solo, as Cam Greenwood pounds the kit, I can feel it through the floor. Crockett leaps off the drum riser, the outro consists of massive bass wash.
We’re straight into the next track, and there’s no mistaking the sound, it’s full-fat Ugly Kid Joe. ‘V.I.P.’ is taken from the ‘Menace To Sobriety’ album released in 1995.
Hard and sleazy, with big stomping beats and a snarling lyric. Crane is dancing with his mic stand. The guitars are being played down the naughty end, and sound brilliant.
‘Neighbor’ which is from the 1992 debut album ‘America’s Least Wanted’. Quick punchy heavy riffs, Crane is prowling the stage as he speaks the lyrics, the tempo change bring a sleazy sound. The Rock City crowd are jumping, bits of confetti from previous events are floating down from the lighting rigs. Eichstadt in shorts and red golfing socks comes to the stage front for his solo. Crane lets out a big scream as Squires plays the outro. We liked that one.
Crane asks, “Are you happy?” the reply is a huge cheer, “I’ll keep asking during the show, and I expect the reply to keep getting louder”. Then ‘Panhandlin’ Prince’ from ‘America’s Least Wanted’ begins. He starts everyone clapping, Klaus Eichstadt moves to the centre of the stage for his solo, Crane crouched down, and is singing to the front row. Rock City is jumping. Squires opens up with a lead break, as Crane asks Rock City to cheer, he divides the crowd into three, pointing at them when it’s their turn. The crowd clap the track to its finish.
“When I lean forward, I want to hear you scream. Got it?”, the crowd scream to confirm. It’s ‘No One Survives’ from the 2017 EP ‘Stairway To Hell’.
This is slower with more spoken lyrics, but the beats from Greenwood and Crockett are heavy, during the track Crane leans towards the crowd, each time the crowd cheer louder. Crane asks for ‘Jazz’ hands, before getting everyone to wave like windscreen wipers. Good fun.
The stage glows red, staying with ‘Stairway To Hell’ up next, it’s ‘Devil’s Paradise’, this is possibly my favourite UKJ track, so I’m glad it’s been included tonight. Crane gets people waving their arms and shaking their hands, he’s skipping around the stage as he belts out the words. Greenwood is smashing his kit whilst joining in with the backing vocals. Squires and Eichstadt are producing some really dirty riffs full of distortion. Brilliant.
Now, it’s ‘Cats in the Cradle’ taken from ‘America’s Least Wanted’. This is a cover of Harry Chapin’s folk song originally released in 1974 reaching No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard Charts. The 1993 Ugly Kid Joe version reached No. 6. Johnny Cash has also released a version too. Cordell Crockett has removed his shades for this one. The track is sung with control and passion. Rock City is on backing vocals, it’s a fabulous sound, arms are swaying overhead. That was a very popular song.
Crane address the Rock City crowd, “Do you want to hear some good news?”, Yes, is the emphatic reply, “Well, when we jump, you jump”.
I’m Alright’ is taken from ‘Stairway to Hell’, it starts with a marching riff, heavy bass and thumping drumbeat. The band start jumping, and as instructed, Rock City is jumping too. Crane is shouting the lyrics, Eichstadt rattles your senses as he lights up his fret board.
We’re straight into another track from the new album ‘Rad Wings of Destiny’ is ‘Failure’, it’s a more modern sound, jangly guitars, a cross between The Cult and AC/DC, but the lyrics are definitely UKJ. It’s a bit different, showing evolution. They haven’t given up on their roots, just showing great ability in being able to produce different sounds. I can feel the bass wash through my jeans. This is great stuff.
Crane tells us the next song was written by Dave Fortman. It’s ‘Milkman’s Son’ which is from the 1995 album ‘Menace to Sobriety’, Mike Squires starts the intro, it’s riff and beat heavy. Crane’s vocal is gravelly adding bite. Squires solo has everyone’s attention as the notes fill the hall. Cordell Crockett with his shades back on is rocking out like no-one is watching.
Whitfield Crane stops to talk to a lady in the front row by the barrier, her name is Jo, apparently, she’s been holding her phone up all show with ‘Busy Bee’ scrolling and flashing on the screen. He apologises and says that it’s not on the setlist for tonight, the crowd boo, laughing, he tells her that he will sing some of it to her acapella, he sits down on the edge of the stage and serenades her. Jo and Rock City loved it.
Crane congratulates Massive Wagons on their chart success. Ugly Kid Joe’s second album ‘America’s Least Wanted’ is where you would find our next track ‘Goddamn Devil’. The stage is all red. The slow almost cinematic intro starts to build the atmosphere, the crunching riff followed the slow lyrics takes you on a rollercoaster of sounds, a clever mix. We’re in free-fall at the midsection as the pace intensifies, an assault on the senses, sounds coming from all directions. Cam Greenwood providing backing vocals and screams.
We’re straight into ‘Lola’ from ‘Rad Wings of Destiny’ is a cover of the 1970 The Kinks classic. It’s slow and controlled, it matches the originals tempo. Rock City take on lead vocals, before duetting with Crane. It sounds great, I loved it.
We have a pretend encore, we’re told that depending how loud we cheer, we can have either one or two more tracks. We get two.
Baz Mills is welcomed back onto the stage and we rip into the 1976 AC/DC cover ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’. Crane and Mills alternate verses as Rock City explodes. Baz is back high-kicking as Klaus Eichstadt launches an ‘Air-bomb Repeater’ of a solo. Rock City is rubble.
We arrive at their final track. It’s the song from Ugly Kid Joe that is recognised by the first note, it is ‘Everything About You’ from ‘America’s Least Wanted’. Everyone is clapping, Crane invites us to sing it, the crowd are on lead vocals as the track builds to a finish. It’s met with a huge cheer and whistles. The band acknowledge the crowd, thank them, then leave the stage.
Setlist: That Ain’t Livin’, V.I.P. Neighbor, Panhandlin’ Prince, No One Survives, Devil’s Paradise, Cats in the Cradle, I’m Alright, Failure, Milkman’s Son, (Busy Bee), Goddamn Devil, Lola, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Everything About You.
It’s been a top night at Rock City, with some fabulous explosive performances by the musicians on the stage. After the show I’ve witnessed tonight, Bonfire Night may well be a bit of an anti-climax.
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM