Heading out it felt like one of those March evenings where winter stretches its icy fingers trying to cling onto the cold and delivering yet more drizzly rain. It meant yet another cold and damp arrival which perhaps explained the far-from-full feel when I arrived at NAC just 15 or so minutes before the opening band. They were another ‘beast from the east’, from Great Yarmouth and they came armed. Garage blues rock trio Beast With a Gun opened proceeding with their own explosive and fun set. I’ve seen them a number of times over the years but never here in the NAC so that in itself was a treat but they were absolute dynamite. Drums, guitar, no bass but a charismatic singer who also plays cigar-box guitar and a lead guitarist so animated he is almost Wilko-esque at times. They were the absolute perfect opener for a Punk Rock Blues night. I always enjoy Beast with a Gun gigs and this one is up there among my favourites, they have a wonderful trashy rawness, a good visual balance and I’d love to see them share a billing with someone like Starcrawler.
I think they gained the admiration of everyone seeing and hearing them for the first time, not surprisingly. Totally unfazed by lost plectrums (audience member to the rescue!) and wayward drumsticks they powered their way through a set of glorious garage rock and roll blues with interspersed monkey noises to loud applause (“Should I just have done a whole set of monkey impersonations?”) and Southern drawl thanks and “True story, true story” between song interjections. If you liked this check out new offshoot band Ravenous Hounds, from the ashes of Savage Island. Even more ‘Sonics’ in sound, their debut gig a few months back was a belter.
From this point in the rest of the gig was uncharted waters for me, I knew nothing whatsoever about Los Pepes, and barely anything about The BellRays but if they were put on by PRB that was enough for me!
Los Pepes had me within seconds. “Hello. We’re Los Pepes. We play Rock and Roll!” They sure do. Loud, frenetic, and wearing their influences on a sweaty sleeve they were absolutely brilliant, almost like a fantasy combination of Stiff Little Fingers, The Ramones, The Clash and AC/DC, or “The Motörhead of powerpop” as they describe themselves. Primarily though they are just bloody good energetic pop songs delivered in a guitar-driven punk rock style that had me nodding away and thinking “This is what I have been missing! Animated, energetic and playing great rock and roll with the poses to match. They were superb!
It was hard to imagine how these two sets could be bettered but then on came The BellRays who in their own style charmed everyone. They are probably best summed up by a comment mid-set from my friend Paul. “It’s like if Tina Turner was in The Ramones!” Absolutely! This was a quintessential Punk Rock Blues set, but with some added funk and soul for good measure. So much fun. “Punk is the preacher….. Blues is the teacher” as they have in their bio. One could really get lost in their music and focus on the blues, the soul, or the infectious punk spirit and guitar. I simply could not put into words how much I enjoyed their set and although the Arts Centre hall was far from full they did that thing that great bands can do, they made it feel full and had the whole place dancing.
I knew there was a pretty good chance I would love the night’s music but I still wan’t quite prepared for just how much I would enjoy it and how much fun I would have. Three hours of exhilarating music. Cycling home some time later I was still buzzing from it, which helped beat a path through some more fresh snowfall but I didn’t care about that. This was the sort of powerful music to make you move and feel good and that’s just what it did. One of the best gigs of the year so far.
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