Rattlesnake Remedy and Dead Against The Rest in Cardiff
5pm Wedneday 21st February. Spent the afternoon chasing up photos for my book ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD. Get sent three great shots by Richie Edwards of The Darkness. They include a great shot of the stray cat he befriended in the band's last few weeks at Rockfield in April 2005 when recording One Way Ticket.... He fed the cat salmon and steak among other luxurious items as the feline music lover sat in on the final few sessions. Later Richie found out the cat had died soon after they left Rockfield. Upset at first, Richie soon began to realise that maybe he'd helped make the cat's last few weeks quite special. "He ate like a King and watched some great music being made" was Richie's upbeat assessment of the cat's final days before he went to kitty heaven!
A few more emails are rattled off to try to round up the last few photos. Now time to rest -- it's off to see Rattlesnake Remedy - among others - in Cardiff city centre.
7pm - I head into town. Tonight Rattlesnake Remedy are playing The Barfly. I bought their CD Magic Man months ago and haven't stopped playing it. Also on the bill are Welsh band Dead Against The Rest. I've heard a few of their songs on their Myspace site and am looking forward immensely to seeing them live.
7-30pm I arrive at the Barfly and I'm given a bright orange band to put around my wrist. Tonight's gig is for over 16's. So those 18 and over have to wear a wristband to prove their age for the purposes of the bar. The lady on the entrance desk assesses me briefly, and having scanned my slightly haggered appearance, decides that I am over 18!!! It must have been a close call though - not!
I meet up with my friend and colleague Nick Dermody. He works in News Online for BBC Wales. He's survived the traffic coming into the city centre on his bike. Brave man or foolhardy adventurer!!???! His dice with death on the rain soaked streets of the Welsh capital is now over so without delay we hit the bar and proudly flash our orange wristbands to prove we can legally sup the ale of the gods!!!!
We move backstage and exchange greetings with Rattlesnake Remedy. The guys in the band recognise my name as their management have been using a quote from me on their website praising the band's debut album. They are a remarkably amiable bunch.
Back in the bar area - the small number of early starters are watching a group called White Label who chug through a pleasant, if not original, set of rock songs. They're not bad as an appetiser for the main attraction.
Next up are Dead Against The Rest. This band was formed in the Welsh valleys in 2003 by a group of good friends and they are slowly starting to build a name for themselves. The small Barfly stage seems to creak slightly as five guys take to it. Lead vocalist Cy looks the part with his shaggy mane of long hair, while bassist Wilf is an imposing bloke with his biker-style gruff beard and long locks. (See first two pictures)
Drummer Bix is no less imposing - a big character who resembles John Bonham as he sits behind the drums - sticks raised waiting to pound out the opening rhythmns. Guitarists Lyo, Kane and DJ also shuffle their way onto the tiny stage area and the five get ready to rock. The opening sounds of Knock Me Out Loud reverb around the hall and people at the bar area start to turn and take note of the action on the stage behind them. Now more and more people are moving toward the once empty stage area. Dead Against The Rest are on a roll. The growling guitar opening of Enough's Enough sparks a run of three songs including Angry Machine and One Way Ticket which capture a driving, heavy sound coupled with wonderfully harmonious vocals and hook filled choruses. My favourite is a track called Big Love. Later when I tell this to the band they snigger in unison in mild embarrassment and tell me they consider that track 'Cheesey' but they still recognise that it's as catchy as hell and has to be played live!!!
Dead Against The Rest are ones to watch. They're signing a new management deal and a record deal looks to be just on the horizon.
10pm The main act -- Rattlesnake Remedy come onto the stage with a real swagger. They sound like a cross between The Black Crowes and Free with a hint of Zeppelin and Sabbath thrown in. Singer Lee Stone's voice is awesome. He has a really soul voice with a wide range and, as a front man, has real presence. A solid, swinging rhythm section in Matt Birch on Bass and Dave Ballard on drums is rounded off with the ballsy, bluesy guitars of Ben Bartlett and Mark Buckler.(See middle pictures 3+4) These guys are like the Allman Brothers rolled in with a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd. wow! It's great to watch and the songs from the debut album pack a punch live. The rockin' Black Sheep Fiddle, Drag You Down and Freestyle, counterbalenced with the softer touch on songs like Free To Feel. Best of all is the hypnotic title track, Magic Man with its haunting guitar hook. It's a time machine back to the 70's - back to rock 'n' roll at its best!!! All it needed was for Starsky and Hutch to raid the bar and the moment would have been complete.
Disappointly it was a smallish crowd at the Barfly, it being wednesday midweek. But the band were philosophical. Their attitude of 'we'll play in front of any crowd from 20 to 20 thousand' is a real tribute to their drive and ambition to keep giging until their music reaches a wider audience. It'll surely pay-off.
Gig over and after a few more pints Nick and I (end photo -- me to the left Nick to the right - with a bycycle helmet on!!!) head off home. Roll on the next gig!!
The new book ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD by Jeff Collins is out in August/September 2007 on University of Wales Press. It will also be available on www.amazon.com.